Imagine this — gliding across the water in an authentic Venetian gondola, sipping a cool refreshing drink, tasting a few appetizers and looking into your beloved’s eyes as a tenor gondolier rows and guides the boat and soulfully sings: “Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole; N’aria serena doppo na tempesta,” of the classic Italian love song, “O Sole Mio.”
No, people from Joint Base Lewis-McChord don’t to have to travel across the globe for this amazing, romantic interlude. It’s available in the nearby waters of Gig Harbor.
Gondolier John Synco has been offering authentic gondola cruises at the Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard since 2015. A one-hour cruise is $85 for two people and $20 for each additional person, up to six. Appetizers are provided. An extended, 90-minute, cruise also is available for $30 more. Children 5 years old and younger are free. Synco recently added a 10 percent discount for service members and veterans.
Although the cruise is an obvious choice for a romantic excursion, it’s also a great way to celebrate just about anything for a small group of family or friends.
“We bring a unique opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the harbor and celebrate life’s special occasions on the water,” Synco said.
Nelly — Synco’s gondola — was built in Venice, Italy, in the 1980s and shipped to Southern California in 2008. It’s one of 30 authentic gondolas in America and the only one in the Northwest, according to Greg Mohr, president of the Gondola Society of America and a gondolier in Newport Beach, Calif.
Mohr said he’s happy for his friend of more than a decade in not only succeeding in the gondola business but also in being the owner of Nelly.
“John Synco is a wonderful guy and everyone loves him; he’s just the right kind of person to be in this job, he really loves what he does and it shows,” Mohr said. “I know it’s a boat, not a person, but this kind of boat is almost like a person — it’s like a beloved pet. And, Nelly is a really great boat.”
His degree in communications has served him well as a gondolier, since he uses his gift of gab to share the history of an area and chat with people from all walks of life about a plethora of subjects.
“I love chatting with people,” he said. “Through the years, I’ve learned a lot of history of Gig Harbor from people who take the cruise, and I’m able to share those stories with people now.”
His love of all things nautical began as a child when he’d paddle canoes and kayaks.
“Any time I could learn another watercraft, I’d jump at it,” he said.
He says he “fell into” a job with a gondola business in Long Beach, Calif., where he learned basic Venetian rowing.
“I fell in love with the job; I obsessed and it became a passion of mine,” he said.
He began watching videos, which is how he learned to row. He also traveled to Europe and improved his skills through observation of Italy’s gondoliers. That’s also where he picked up the craft of singing to his passengers.
“I’m not a singer, but people like what I do, and, in America, a gondolier has to sing,” he said.
Summer is Synco’s busy season, so if anyone has a specific date they want to book, it’s best to contact him two to three weeks in advance. However, most times, weekdays can be booked a couple days ahead of time, he said.
For more information or to book a cruise, visit gigharborgondola.com or call 253-432-0052.