Gondola Tours on Coronado Bay

Can’t get to Venice, Italy this year? Try a romantic gondola ride in Coronado, instead.

Experience a little bit of la dolce vita in San Diego with a cruise on an authentic gondola (some of which have been imported from Italy) provided by the Gondola Company of the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Families can pile in for a daytime tour of the Coronado Cays and the surrounding bay (just south of downtown San Diego), or couples can indulge in a romantic sunset or moonlit evening cruise. There also are fleet cruises available, so that groups as large as 30 can cruise side by side onboard a small armada of gondolas.

Plying the Waters of Coronado

While waiting to board a recent gondola cruise, my husband, daughter, and I relaxed on a small outdoor patio overlooking the marina, which was decked out with bistro tables and strung with party lights. Italian music played in the background, and empty Chianti bottles adorned the tables. To complete the festive mood, our gondolier greeted us wearing a traditional red-and-white striped shirt and a straw hat. Although the nautical surroundings reminded us more of the Venice in Southern California than the one in Italy, it was still fun to pretend we were about to cruise the Grand Canal.

Our guide tucked us comfortably into a sleek black gondola with a roomy padded seat and gave us soft lap blankets to ward off the marine chill. We brought our own beverages, as cruisers are encouraged to do, and were given a half dozen chocolate-covered strawberries. More expensive cruises include a musician playing either the violin or a mandolin, but our standard cruise featured recorded music. The small vase of plastic roses clipped to the front of the boat and the tape-recorded tunes seemed a little cheesy to us—and we couldn’t help but notice passengers of passing yachts sniggering a bit.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to beat a sunny afternoon on the water—especially when someone else is in charge of navigation. The ride was relaxing; the gondola route passed by spectacular waterfront homes; and on a clear day passengers are treated to unparalleled views of the Coronado Bridge and the downtown San Diego skyline. Although it didn’t compare to the sheer romance of a gondola ride through Italian canals, the Coronado version was a kick—and at a significantly discounted rate compared to bloated Venetian cruises, which can cost triple the amount for half the time (not including the airfare to Italy).

How to Plan a Gondola Ride

Hour-long cruises begin at the Marina House at the Loews resort and run from 3 p.m. until midnight during the week and 11 a.m. to midnight on weekends. Be sure to make reservations in advance, because specially trained gondoliers are onsite only when there are cruises booked; note that credit card information is taken at the time of booking, and your card will be charged if you cancel fewer than 24 hours in advance. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast; windy conditions made the vessel hard to handle on my family’s recent cruise, and we ended up seeing only one canal because our progress was so slow. Minimum cost for one individual is $85, plus $20 for each additional passenger (with a limit of six per vessel).

Tel. 619-429-6317; 4000 Coronado Bay Rd., Coronado, Calif. www.gondolacompany.com


Destinations: San Diego

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Boating

User Comments

The Venice of Southern California That's the best way to put it. Looks like I'll be going to Venice soon!

Adding to my list Sounds like a perfect activity for a sunny day.

Italy lite I think I'd go all out and get my own personal violinist...that'd be sweet.