These are rather labor-intensive. Each gondola holds a maximum of four people plus the gondolier. They tie the boat up, let the people off, clean up a bit, let the next batch on. The gondolier guides it down the "canals", under bridges and around corners, and manages to sing two songs and talk a blue streak, piling on the bull. Ours was way into it, started right in when he greeted us on the dock. Speaking in a fake Italian accent, he immediately extolled the beauty of our smiles and throughout spoke of the three beautiful women. He told us things about the Venetian (the smallest room (suite) is 700 square feet, just a little under the size of my home, and the largest fifty suites are over 5,000 sf each, for example), told us about the increase in the number of marriages since Sept 11, told us about an engagement ride yesterday morning (I guess this is a regular thing there). The first song he did was a cheery one that encouraged clapping so of course we had to clap. Joey naturally loved this, and so did the folks leaning over the bridge balconies. When he was done everyone applauded. Joey got to waving at people as we wended our way down and back.
How long was the ride? ten, fifteen minutes? Somewhere in there. Mary peeled of eight ones as a tip. I had been ready to give him ten but she beat me to it. I can imagine that if most people feel as generous as we did these gondoliers do quite well. I mean, after all, we have them exclusively to ourselves, they sing, they push, they stand up the whole way. The boats are actually run electrically, Elaine says by a switch kicked on at the gondolier's feet. But the poles steer them. It seems like not so much money (tickets are $12.50 each) for such a thing, when you think what you pay at Disneyland, for example, for complete automation, a lot fewer service people.
I will add in the photo they took when I get home and get it scanned.