Five Reasons the Las Olas Gondola Is Keeping Romance Alive


Before you shove those flowers down the garbage disposal, throw the candy hearts in the microwave, and send that passive-aggressive text message, there's something you need to hear: Romance is not dead!

No. It's alive and well, and you'll find it floating merrily down the New River right in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Yes, you heard me: Fort Lauderdale. The same nipple-piercing city that at times can seem like the antithesis of a Nicholas Sparks novel actually houses one of the most wonderfully mushy things New Times has seen since we caught Rick Scott spooning with an alligator in the Everglades.

It's called the Las Olas Gondola, and your girlfriend wants to know why you haven't taken her on it yet.

Las Olas Gondola has been running tours on the New River, right across from the Downtowner Saloon, for seven years now, but it was a handwritten letter mailed to New Times that got our attention.

Written by either the sweetest old lady in the history of the elderly or a Gondola passenger with a gun to their head, the letter starts off, "Recently I was pleasantly surprised by a thrilling discovery." Rather than getting all Fifty Shades of Grey, it goes on to talk about how much Sharon -- the letter's author -- enjoyed her ride, and how it reminded her of her previous vacations in Venice (Sharon is apparently quite the traveler).

At $150 a ride, the experience isn't cheap, but can you put a price on romance? (How about $150?)

The ride lasts for about an hour and 15 minutes and can fit up to six people, but there are plenty of other reasons why it's the most romantic thing you can do in Fort Lauderdale.

5. Sal. This is Sal. Sal is from Venice, and he's a better aphrodisiac than a chocolate-covered oyster.

He sits along on every ride, emitting a pheromone that mimics the emotional experience one has the first time he hears Beethoven. Sal is discrete and adventurous. And just look at his hat. Look at it!

Sal is a silent, inanimate little Barry White, and he doesn't wear pants because they only get in the way. In short, he's the best third wheel a date could ever hope for.

4. Booze. You can bring your own booze onto the Las Olas Gondola, which is good, because that slightly racist joke you love to tell works better after a few glasses of Pinot Grigio.

Upon arrival, your wine/vodka/fermented Listerine will be opened for you by your gondolier and chilled within degrees of your preferred sipping temperature. Glasses and plates are provided, and you're free to bring food, you know, so you don't look like an alcoholic.

We know you don't need alcohol to have fun, but you also technically don't need a spoon to eat a bowl of ice cream. Things are just going to be a lot less sticky if you have one.

3. Hands-free wine. This brings us to our next reason: the wonderful and ingenious Las Olas Gondola wine holder. If they had these in The Perfect Storm, they would have never even left port and George Clooney would still be alive. If they had these on the Titanic, maybe the captain could have used both hands to steer a little better. If Captain Phillips had these, maybe the pirates would have partied instead of pirating.

But the past is the past, and all that matters is that the Las Olas Gondola has them now. Without having to hold your wine, you'll have both hands free to fondle-a on the gondola. Amirite, Sal?

2. Martha. A ship is nothing without a captain. And if you're lucky enough to have Martha Beachem as your gondolier, you're with the best.

Here are some 100 percent true facts you should know about Martha (not in order of importance):

  • She is a master scuba dive instructor.
  • She has a vast and profound knowledge of Fort Lauderdale canals.
  • She knows several manatees by name.
  • She once -- in a single day -- had four different proposals happen on her gondola, proving that she is to romance what magnets are to other magnets.
  • She was once ranked Georgia's number-one racquetball player (This is true. OK, I lied about the manatees).
  • She loves what she does and will do anything (if it's legal) to make your gondola ride perfect.

1. No singing. Is there anything worse than an off-key gondolier screaming bad opera at you? Yes. Genocide.

But I think we can all agree that sometimes you just don't want to be serenaded. Well, there's no need to worry about unwanted singing on the Las Olas Gondola. You may choose between vintage American ballads or sweet classical music, but no matter what you choose, your gondolier will keep his or her mouth shut.

However, if you request Ke$ha, you will be thrown overboard, where you'll be killed by manatees.

To book a ride on the Las Olas Gondola, call 800-277-1390 or visit

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Ryan Pfeffer is Miami New Times’ music editor. After earning a BS in editing, writing, and media from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor, where he coined the phrase "pee-tweet" (to retweet someone while urinating). Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, he’s now neck-deep in bass and booty in the 305.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer