Well, I asked the question, and was hoping for more input by afternoon,
but then Sean chimed in with a truly great quote:
A good gondolier is a genius and is part rock star, part ballet dancer and part arrogant bast*&#d.
He is part poet and part circus clown.
He is a Casanova, an yet is part mute.
He is part athlete, part comedian, and most of all, he must include the word "Gondola" in his name.
Leave it to Sean to put it better than anyone else.
Looking at the odd and multi-faceted profession that we share, I can see a long list of other disciplines that might either be helpful or essential.
So following are a few that come to mind.
A good gondolier is also part:
Tour Guide - pointing out various interesting things along the route.
Of course some gondoliers have also been known to embellish a little here and there, but I'd never do that!
Marriage Counselor - gondoliers have a unique opportunity to help couples work out their problems or rekindle their love. I've taken many couples out because they were sent by their marriage counselor.
Boat Detailer - before his guests arrive, and between cruises, a good gondolier washes or polishes his boat, cleans up the passenger area,
and does his best to eliminate the perception that someone else sat in those seats before (even if they're still warm from the last cruise).
Co-Conspirator - helping execute surprises of different types, from birthdays to anniversaries, and of course proposals.
Photographer - able to take photos with whatever kind of camera, cell phone, or other electronic or mechanical gadget the passengers hand him.
Wine Sommelier - capable of opening any and all types of bottled beverage. Having a snazzy opener helps. It's also important to compliment the client on his or her choice of spirit, even if it's garbage.
Of course having perspective requires the gondolier to spend some time getting to know the various wines and spirits he thinks he might encounter on the job. it's tough, but someone's gotta do it.
Real-Estate Assessor - people will often whimsically ask their gondolier questions like "how much are these homes worth?", and "how's the school district here?", as if they were actually considering buying a home along the waterway. A good gondolier has a quick, vague, believable, and possibly funny answer. He takes this just as seriously as the passengers take their questions.
Tightrope Walker - like Sean's "ballet dancer", a gondolier must not only have perfect balance, but have a zen-like connection with his boat.
Water and Wind Expert - he must be able to read the wind, tidal patterns, and in some places the flow of a river.
Bicyclist in Traffic - in some places, a gondolier has to navigate through boat traffic where in many cases he's the only one rowing.
Cyrano de Bergerac - directing and encouraging bone-headed guys who couldn't make it in romance without some help.
Some guys need more help than others.
Yoga Practicioner - in some locations, bridges are low, and measures must be taken to get a boat under the bridge. The most extreme I've seen in a long time is in New Orleans, where gondolier Roberto rows a modified boat and literally has to lay on his back to make it under the bridge.
Lifeguard - sometimes people end up in the water. Sometimes it's planned, sometimes it's not. A good gondolier needs to know when to reach and when to jump in. He needs to know when to tell folks that it's alright to jump in, and when to tell them "sorry, the pool's closed".
We are also keenly aware that we may need to serve as paramedic, ambulance driver, skin-diver for a lost engagement ring, and even drinking buddy for the poor guy who just got rejected on the boat.
We hope these moments never happen, but a good gondolier should be ready to do what needs to be done.
Lastly, a good gondolier should be:
frequently receiving big tips,
but he should love his job so much that he'd do it for free.