“ Address: 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South / Las Vegas / NV 89109 „
Las Vegas is famed for its themed hotels and I think the Venetian, which is mocked up to look like Venice, complete with canals and gondolas is one of the most famous ones. Everyone was telling us we should go on the gondolas before we went and it was probably one of the things we were most asked about when we came back too.
The Venetian hotel is easy to find, it is located on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka The Strip) towards the north end opposite The Mirage. The canal actually runs outside too, so it's easy to spot.
As we entered the hotel it wasn't long before we found the canal and we just followed it along until we found the place where you can board/un-board the boats. There was a short queue waiting for the gondolas and I initially thought it was just a case of joining the queue, however you actually have to buy your tickets from a small shop nearby. This shop also sells photographs which will be taken of you on the gondola as well as several Italy/Venice themed toys and souvenirs.
The gondolas seat four and there are two choices for tickets. You can either pay $16 each (approx £10) and be paired with other people, or you can have a private two-passenger ride costing $64 (£40). I was happy to save myself the money and share with strangers as frankly that price difference is too great to be justifiable in my opinion. Children are welcome on the gondolas and under 2's are free, but I believe all other children are expected to pay the full price of $16. I must admit that when we were there we didn't see any children at all on the gondolas, it was mainly couples.
We purchased our tickets from the gift shop and were given a time slot. This was around 45 minutes from the time of purchase. I expect you could wait even longer in busy times. We were also told that the ride would only be an indoor one. I'm not sure how you go about booking an outdoor ride, I remember reading somewhere that they are only at night, but I can't be sure as there was no information in the ticket sales shop that I could see and it's not clear on the Venetian website either, having just looked.
We returned to the queue at our allotted time slot and were paired with a couple who I believe were Brazilian and spoke no English. The Gondolier welcomed us and helped us all into the boat, taking my and the other lady's hand and turning on the charm with his fake Italian accent. I did notice when we boarded that all the staff had very Italian names. It could have been coincidence of course, but I did get the feeling that each staff member had had their name 'Italian-ed up', so to speak - for example Anthony becoming Antonio and so on.
Once in the boat, we were instructed to belt ourselves in and then an annoying woman with a camera gave us lots of instructions while taking photos with the intention of then selling them to us at the end of the ride for an extortionate price.
Although the gondoliers have an oar, the boat is actually motorised I believe, which makes sense given that it's not a real canal and is probably only about a foot deep. As we set off, we were told by our fake Italian gondolier that it is tradition to kiss under each bridge and he made sure to remind us of that at each one we came to. There are a lot of bridges in the Venetian hotel which added up to a lot of kisses. It's not that I'm complaining but the Brazilian couple had no clue what was going on and were probably getting a bit uncomfortable with us kissing every 10 seconds!
One thing that had put me off taking a gondola in the first place was that the gondoliers sing to you as you sail around, which I find a little bit embarrassing really! Our gondolier started with O Sole Mio and I managed to resist the temptation to join in with the Cornetto lyrics! He then sang another Opera style song which I wasn't familiar with and finished with That's Amore which had people on the sides of the canal singing along too! As slightly embarrassing as I found it to be sung to, the guy was an impressive singer as were the other gondoliers we passed.
The ride lasts a mere 12 minutes and goes along the canal taking in the scenery. The whole hotel is mocked up to look like Venice and has a painted ceiling that looks like the sky, so there's a lot to look at as you go around. The gondolier chatted to us when he wasn't singing, at times letting his fake accent slip! When we were queuing we saw a couple getting married in a gondola - them on one side of the boat, a vicar and a cameraman on the other - so he chatted to us about weddings for a bit and the pros and cons of being married in a gondola!
Ticket sales open at 09:30 and you need to make them in person at the shop. For the price we paid I was happy enough with the ride and despite it being short it was definitely a very unusual experience which I will not forget. If you're in Vegas or planning to go then I'd recommend it!