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A new attraction will soon be cruising the waters of Morro Bay: an authentic gondola

Central Coast Gondoal
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 22, 2023

A new attraction has made its way to the waters of Morro Bay, and starting June 30, people will have the opportunity to take a relaxing cruise inside it.

Stephen Anastasia, owner and founder of Central Coast Gondola, has brought one of his passions to Morro Bay: a 62-year-old authentic wedding gondola.

Yes, the same romantic vessel seen in films and vacation photos alike — like it’s straight out of the canals of Venice, Italy.

“You can come to the gondola for an hour and you bring whoever you want — this boat holds up to six people,” Anastasia said, who goes by Stefano when standing tall on the boat's stern, guiding visitors with the craft’s rèmo, or oar. “You can bring whatever beverage you like and we go around the bay.”

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This gondola is one of five wedding gondolas in the entire United States and one of two on the West Coast, Anastasia said. It first entered the waters of Morro Bay last Friday.

The first scheduled ride might be next week. But for Anastasia, who is a San Luis Obispo County native, the gondola’s arrival was a long time coming.

“The first time I ever saw one and rode on it I thought, ‘This needs to go into Morro Bay.’ But it was never the right time, right place or right boat,” Anastasia said. “And now it is.”

That was over 20 years ago when Anastasia moved to Los Angeles to attend Cal State Long Beach. While looking for a job, he was recommended to try rowing a gondola.

A wife, three kids, graduate school, and two separate careers later — it's still part of his life.

As for what options potential visitors can choose from for their gondola ride, Anastasia said there are many. Those hour-long or hour-and-a-half-long cruises can be at sunset, paired with a wine tasting or even be the site of special events, such as proposals and weddings.

But if you’re just looking for a lowkey activity to do, well, that’s cool, too.

“If you wanna see wildlife, we go see wildlife. If you wanna see Pirate Steve, we see Pirate Steve,” Anastasia said. “If you wanna cruise the Embarcadero in style, that’s what we do.

“If you wanna find a quiet nook and have a picnic, we can do that, too.”

Anastasia said that he plans on partnering with local businesses, restaurants and even wineries.

“You’d buy tickets to a wine tasting, it would just happen to be [on the gondola],” Anastasia said. “So, the sommelier would come out on a different boat and they will have all of the wine on their boat and serve it over to here as a wine tasting.”

Anastasia will only be offering booking on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, “at this particular point,” he said. But, depending on how business goes, things can change. More boats and more gondoliers are an option, and, maybe, it could become “a full-time thing.”

“It’s so peaceful, so beautiful. What more do you want?” Anastasia said. “I get to work outside on the water in a beautiful boat, beautiful people.

“It’s wonderful.”

Those interested can visit Central Coast Gondola’s website where they can view potential booking options and learn more.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misspelled Stephen Anastasia's name. The article listed "Steven," not "Stephen." The article also said that Anastasia was a Caycuos native. That was incorrect. His grandmother was a Cayucos native. Anastasia was born in San Luis Obispo and spent the majority of his youth living and going to school in Atascadero.