I know of few places where tourists can experience a gondola ride outside of Venice, Italy; one is Newport Beach, California, and the other, The Venetian of Las Vegas. In Newport Beach, California, guests can share a bottle of champagne while riding a gondola. In The Venetian, they enjoy Italian songs sung by gondoliers.
The Venetian of Las Vegas offers two canal routes: one inside that runs through St. Mark's Square and shopping center and the other one that runs along palaces outside the casino. Both offer nearly authentic experiences of riding a gondola through the canals of Venice, Italy. I say nearly authentic because in The Venetian, the canal water lacks floating garbage and distinct smell that comes with it —- a trademark of genuine Venetian canal water.
Each ride lasts about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how fast guests board the gondola. Once the guests are on board, gondoliers steer through the canal along which shoppers and tourists watch and take pictures of them as if they were the Venetian nobles and courtesans who are the subjects of gossips. So if you plan on riding one but would feel shy about onlookers, make sure you choose earlier part of the day when less people are around. However, if you are a newlywed couple who are dying for public attention, keep your wedding suit and dress on and choose the prime time to find the most crowd to greet you -—early evening on a weekend. You are guaranteed to be treated like Prince Charles and Princess Di when they were just married. You will see flashes on cameras go off one right after another even if no one had contacted the media for any publicity.
To purchase tickets, you must go to the end of the canal in St. Mark's Square. In the afternoon and early evening, you will find that getting a gondola ride is like waiting for a ride in Disneyland. Expect to see a long line. The cost is $12.50 per person with four people sharing a gondola or $50 for the whole gondola, as of Spring 2003. The gondoliers are trained vocalists and have a fairly good repertoire of songs; so don't be afraid to request your favorite Italian song, but be prepared to pay a little tip.