We were headed to Newport Beach for the weekend and wanted to do something unique and romantic. We couldn’t have picked a better experience.
Gondola Adventures offers numerous different cruises. We went on the Amore Cruise which is a one-hour gondola ride through the harbor. It was absolutely delightful.
We were lucky enough to cruise in one of their brand-new gondolas which just arrived from Venice, Italy, on Memorial Day, 2022. Our gondola was Bella and the other brand new one is Luna.
Our gondolier, Greg, was exceptional. He gave us a fabulous commentary on all the sites on both sides of the harbor as well as singing every time we went under a bridge. He told us about the tradition – couples must kiss under the bridge, which we were happy to do. Muaaah!
Plus, Greg would sing in an incredibly good voice: under the first bridge, O Solo Mio; under the next, a song in Latin; and on our return under the last bridge, his own glorious rendition of Nessum Dorma!
Along with this, he told a sweet story of how years ago his Aunt Judy, who was a flight attendant on a private plane, met Pavarotti, who invited her to his concert in New York City along with backstage passes for her and her father who loved Pavarotti and used to sing his songs in the shower. (Not nearly as well, of course!)
When we first boarded the gondola, Greg told us we would get lots of “looks” from all the others in the waterway, and he was right. He explained that every time we passed people in other boats – be they yachts, speedboats, Duffy boats, kayaks, paddleboards, or a young couple sitting on a surfboard – the occupants would wave, and we had to call out a greeting, “Bueno sera!” It was a super friendly crowd with lots of friendly waves, big smiles, and our own giddy shouts of “Buona sera!”
Greg had many delightful stories, anecdotes, and rumors about the folks of Newport Beach and the eight islands… and he pointed out all the stunning waterfront homes with fun, juicy descriptions.
He showed us the former home of the late actor, John Wayne, and the previous waterside mansion of actor, Nicolas Cage – with a fascinating story of why he moved and sold it! (You’ll have to ask Greg! Or maybe Nick, himself, if you see him at a screening!) Another interesting tale was that in 1938, James Cagney won Collins Island in a poker game! The U.S. Coast Guard used Collins Island during World War II, and Cagney sold it in 1948. Who knew? These and Greg’s many other anecdotes made the cruise even more special… and quite entertaining.
There have been many proposals in their gondolas. With some proposals, the couple will discover a message in a bottle – floating in the harbor, midway through their cruise. When it is retrieved from the water, it might even have an engagement ring in it! (But, sorry guys, Gondola Adventures does NOT provide the ring.)
While we were out on the harbor, we passed another couple in the company’s Wedding Gondola. This one, the Lucia, has a carved deck and beautiful, elaborate decorations.
On our Amore Cruise, they provided an ice bucket with a choice of sparkling cider, San Pellegrino sparkling water or plain bottled water, and chocolates. There are also cruises where you can have an antipasto platter, pizza, picnic-lunch, dessert, or even a full 4-course dinner when you cruise! The food is provided by a local restaurant.
Greg has to be their best gondolier – he has been doing it 30 years! He’s done it in various cities, states, and countries. Even in Venice, Italy, the gondoliers were impressed with him! Btw, we later learned that “Gondola Greg,” is actually the owner of Gondola Adventures. He’s also the President of the Gondola Society of America, and the foremost authority on gondolas and Venice in the English-speaking world. No wonder we had such an extraordinary cruise!
There’s no question, though, that Greg is a man who absolutely loves his work.
Gondola Adventures operates three types of gondolas: authentic Venetian gondolas (imported from Venice); neo-Venetian electric gondolas with canopy covers; and American-built rowing gondolas.
We feel fortunate that we were in one of the authentic, brand-new Venetian gondolas that was made in Italy during the pandemic and then shipped to Gondola Adventures earlier this summer. In addition to their operation in Newport Beach, Gondola Adventures has cruises in Irving, Texas.
Gondola Adventures is a marvelous way to spend time in Newport Beach, see wonderful sites, and learn fascinating facts about the area. Oh, yeah, and it’s a heap of fun… and fabulously romantic, too.
So now, there’s only one thing left to say: Buona sera!
200 N Bayside Dr,
Newport Beach, CA 92660
All photos courtesy of Gondola Adventures unless otherwise noted.