Disney Cruise Line fish extender : the tutorial

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re going on a Disney cruise soon.  Congratulations!  I know that you’ve got your packing list, passports and cruise excursions to consider but if you want to truly take full advantage of the pixie dusted fun afforded to Disney Cruise Line guests, you’re going to want to at least consider participating in a fish extender group.

What exactly is a fish extender?

Named for the decor from which they hang, fish extenders are usually handmade pocket organizers (similar to a shoe caddy or mail organizer) customized with names, favorite Disney characters, etc.  These pocket organizers are hung from a decorative fish, starfish or seahorse ornament that is attached to the wall outside of the cabins on each of Disney’s four ships.  My family’s fish extender looks like this.

Fish extenders are widely available on Etsy.  You can custom order one that suits your family perfectly.  Simply enter the search term “fish extender” and prepare to be overwhelmed with options!  Alternatively, you can make your own–and it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Even a cute tote bag will work in a pinch!

Where do I sign up?

It’s simple.  You just visit the Facebook group for finding a Fish Extender group.  You’ll need to sign up with the names (and sometimes ages) of participating family members as well as your stateroom number.

What happens next?

Once numbers are finalized, each member of the group prepares a gift for the other participating cabins.  You can opt to provide a single family gift for the participating cabins, or give individual gifts to each person in the cabin.  There are no rules regarding gifts (no minimum or maximum dollar value).  Often times, the gifts are handmade, but not always.  Once the cruise has commenced, participants deliver their gifts to the other participating staterooms, leaving them as a surprise in the fish extender pockets.  One of the most fun aspects of taking part in a fish extender group is checking in throughout the day to see what little goodies are waiting.

Is that a sufficient overview?  I hope so, because I’d really like to move on to the fun part now.  That is, sharing our most recent fish extender gift.  It was a doozie.

When all was said and done, there were over 60 (!!!) fish extender participating cabins for our most recent cruise, which put a screeching halt on the gift we’d originally planned because there was no way we could afford it…times 60!  Some creative thinking, though, led us to an idea that stuck: the paper bag scrapbook.  Creating sixty of them was no easy feat, so we recruited help (over Thanksgiving when we had extra hands on deck) and put them together assembly line style.

It may look like we’re all smiles, but let me assure you, it wasn’t all fun and games.  There was a lot of cutting.  Pasting.  Tying.  Stuffing.  Grumbling.  But we won’t go into that.

Instead, I’ll proudly show you the finished product:

I found this modified version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” online.  It was written with a generalized cruise theme, so I modified it (or, more specifically, Disneyfied it) a bit further.

Jeff and I tag-teamed this crossword puzzle.  I came up with the clues/answers and he, being the technical genius he is, fashioned the actual puzzle and printed it out on paper with a Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas) background.

Our paper bag scrapbooks included two CD’s.  This is the first one.

This spread features a “Would You Rather” activity on one page, and on the other, a little poem directing the recipient to look in the pocket of the book for a special surprise.

Here is the special surprise.  It’s a magnet.  Stateroom doors on Disney Cruise Line are metal.  Cruisers in the know often times plan ahead and bring along a plethora of magnets to adorn their stateroom doors.  Not only is it fun and festive, but it also helps to set your stateroom door apart from a long hall of identical doors.

This is the second CD.

And voila.  There you have it.

Times sixty.  SIXTY!

Here is what our fish extender looked like in action, so to speak.

And that, my friends, is the conclusion of my fish extender tutorial.  Betcha want to cruise Disney now, don’t you?

I’m curious.  What would you give for a fish extender gift?

If you’re stumped and need some ideas, check out my fish extender gift ideas!


  1. Welcome home Darcie and family. I don’t need a gift I just want to say I am looking forward to your pictures about your trip. I see the smiles and everyone looks so happy. But what I want to say is that I am glad that last year when we did make it to AZ at Christmas time, we were lucky enough to meet most of the family. I am ot sure when we will be back to AZ and even if we will but please keep sharing those pictures and stories about your trip and I also wanted to say Happy New Year. I hope you have much love, be very prosperous, and all be very healthy during 2011.

  2. When my family finally gets to go to Disney, will you just plan my trip for us and go along to make it all run smoothly? I can’t even begin to think of what I should know before I go. I have three or so years to prepare though.

    Love your door, love your gift. So creative.

  3. You did a fantastic gift!!! I bet no one in your swapping group even came close to that level of fabulous.

    I was thinking of embroidered Mickey Mouse shaped sucker covers, but that seems totally lame now that I’ve seen your present! I need to cruise with people less creative than you, I think!

  4. Wow, did everyone love your gifts or what? What kinds of gifts did you get?

  5. Amazing! They look wonderful!!

    Me? Hmmm… I thing I would do a paper bag-scrapbook style cookbook with some family favorites in it. You know, now that I know how to make a paper bag scrapbook ;)

  6. Wow…that paperbag scrapbook is incredible! I am truly impressed! And I learned something new…the fish extender groups and the door magnets. I showed this to my son and he was fascinated and excited to go on a Disney Cruise. I love all the photos that you have posted from your trip so far and think it was wonderful that you took the cruise with your grandparents–how special!

    Oh, and I can’t forget the new look to your blog…I love it!

  7. Great FE gift, what a lot of hard work!! I’ve read your site forever, but have never commented until now. I’m the Senior Editor for wdwinfo.com, the site that hosts the DISboards, so I’ve loved reading all your latest cruise posts (my family just went on our first DCL cruise Dec. 12 – our FE exchange had 100 staterooms participating!). Looks like your family had a great time!

    1. Woot woot! I love it when someone de-lurks. *Especially* when it’s a celebrity. And as the Senior Editor of wdwinfo.com, I definitely think you qualify. ;)

      Thank you for the compliments. It was a ton of work, but worth it for sure. I cannot imagine having over 100 participants. Crazy. But the cruise…it was amazing, right?!

      I hope you speak up more often. I have more cruise posts coming…

  8. You scrapbook is just lovely!

    I am taking my family on our first Disney cruise ( first cruise ever and 1st disney encounter) in December. I love the FE ideas but I have a question on how it works.
    Do you make gifts for the people in your exchange for every day of the cruise or are you just assigned one day to deposit gifts?

    1. Every FE group is different in how they distribute; some groups assign days to deliver and others just do it whenever you have the time. There is only a requirement to do one gift, but you are free to do as many as you choose!

  9. This is very cool, I just find out about this, we are doing it this time id our 5 time on the disney cuise but the first time on the ream I will like to know if I need to registed me for participe of this Fish Extenter and were do I need to go to do it. Thanks alot

  10. We are going to Disney this summer but not a cruise. I really want to make it happen at some point in the near future. Anyway, I wanted to share that I found a pocket type organizer at our local $ tree last night. It was black fabric with 5 pockets. I could totally see this working well for the above pic. Too cute!! I’m so jealous.

  11. Darcie,

    I am too a Darcie (few of us in this world). I loved your idea!!! We are cruising the Fantasy in May and I have been looking for ideas for our FE. Do you have any other ideas for things people give…this is our second cruise but first time doing the FE exchange. Thanks for any input.

    Darcie – from Florida

    1. Hi Darcie from Florida~
      I bet you’re going to love the Fantasy! I am actually in the process of putting together a post with some FE ideas. Be on the lookout for it in the next couple of weeks.
      Darcie from Arizona ;)

  12. Hey there!
    Thanks for the post and the FE idea. We are veteran cruisers, but other than putting magnets on the door and letting fate handle who we meet, I have never done the disboards or the FE. I’m now active on DIS for our cruise this Aug and planning on doing the FE this time around. Looking forward to some more creative assistance on that front. :-)
    (I’m soooo not creative!!!)

  13. I love this! We are going on our first DC Oct, 2012 on the Magic. The FE looks like so much fun and I think my kids will get a kick out of it. How do I get involved? I’m new to this so I may sound dumb but what is DIS and how do I know how many people are participating on our cruise? Thanks for the ideas!

  14. I loved both of your ideas for the fish extender gifts. Did you make your fish extender? I see that they have some on ebay for sale, but I would like to make my own. Do you happen to have instructions for making one?

    1. Thank you :) I did not make ours; I had it made. The lady who made ours has an Etsy shop now, but I don’t recall the name of it. I would check there for some creative options…

  15. My husband and I have taken many cruises in the past, came back from our last cruise with a little more then we were prepared for, but wouldn’t change it for the world, our second child. We are plaining on a disney cruise for the kids in 2014. My husband does all the plaining so where do I have him sign up for the FE and the magnet thing that goes on? For I want to give my kids the trip of a life time and both of these things just sounds like a lot of fun and magical. Please help me point my husband in the right direction.

    1. Aw…what a sweet souvenir! As for your planner husband, direct him over to the Disboards and have him find the cruise meet for your particular sailing. You can sign up with the appropriate group there. There are also several folks who make magnets on the disboards. My husband has designed many of ours, but you can find several different designs online. Have a most magical trip!

    1. I wish I could be more helpful, Jeremy, but my husband is a bit of a computer/design geek and he is the one responsible for creating the name tag magnets. I couldn’t begin to explain how he did it. You might try looking on Etsy for something similar, though. Good luck!

  16. Love the homemade book. We’re going next December and I bought Christmas craft kits at after Christmas sale for $.50 each. How many should we get?

  17. Did you make your own FE door hanger or did you get it on Etsy? If the latter, do you remember the store name? Thanks in advance!

  18. I’m blown away! These are incredible. The time and effort you put into this is amazing and so touching. I love that it was a family affair! You’ve inspired me to be a part of the fish extender group on our upcoming cruise!

  19. WOW! This is amazing!! would you be willing to share any of the files or lists for the CDS that you made? Your group was lucky to have you. Working on my first FE group now. This would be amazing.

  20. This looks like so much fun but I wasn’t able to join the group. Any thoughts on how I can. We’re going on a holiday cruise.

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