A gondolier is the common Fen name for professional and semi-professional tour guides operating around the Solar System. Gondoliers with the best reputation and strong charisma are known as undines. The term "gondolier" comes from the tour guides of Venice, on Earth. The term "undine" as an expert gondolier comes from a single work of Japanese fiction, embraced by Fen who've never heard of the source stories.
Ever since Dennis Tito's 2001 trip to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, there had been a mental conception that people will pay a lot of money to go into space. For a short period of time after the 'Wave hit until governments began cracking down, several savvy entrepreneurs took advantage of this conception and did quite well for themselves.
An early gondolier typically possessed a 'waved land vehicle from something as small as a well-kept sedan to a fifteen passenger van. They would then bring their vehicle to some vacation destination, such as Miami Beach, Martha's Vineyard, Cabo San Lucas, or the like and offer "Star Tours." Most Tours never got farther than cislunar space, but some (such as Joseph Corcoran) had occasional runs to Jupiter and Mars, to take advantage of the relative comfort of their vehicles. Other gondoliers occasionally served as private suborbital "airlines" and drove clients from New York to Paris for "cab fare."
Later, web-based portal sites sprung up on the Internet where Fen began to offer small and large tours through the solar system. Most of the sites had pretty sophisticated rating systems and worked together with Earth-based tourist companies to offer their customers some degree of "safety net". These tour offers went from single-day jaunts to the moon and back up to week-long trips around the solar system, depending on the wishes of the customer. Some of the Fen tourist guides offered large group visits to the Moon or on Mars; others (like Stargazer Tours) only provided single-person tours -- but these frequently ventured to the outer planets. Many of these portal sites still exist, but few are still independent; most of them are now operated by Stellvia Travel & Tourism, UnLtd. and other companies in the same field, who take a small percentage of each booking as an agent's fee.
Most guides operate in and around cislunar space, Luna and Mars. The Lagrange-5 station cluster is a popular place for architectural sightseeing, while the lunar wilderness draws tourists interested in "real space" as well as historical tourism. Okar Guide Services and Orange Planet in Helium offer a variety of sightseeing and wilderness adventures involving trips up the Tharsis volcanoes and along the bottom of Valles Marineris.
Gondolier services in the Jovian subsystem were significantly affected by the Boskone War, and have not yet seen a return of popularity. Jovian gondoliers stay in business by offering their services to scientific expeditions to the planet and the surrounding moons, especially Callisto and Ganymede. A small Browncoat firm specializing in "extreme adventure tourism" offers volcano-climbing tours of Io, but the absurd amount of risk involved means few customers.
The furthest afield gondoliers get is Titan, where a cooperative of tour companies built Aria Field as a forward base for trips elsewhere in the Saturn subsystem, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. Titan itself is a semi-popular tourist trap, especially with Warsie migrants moving to Mimas. Aria Field supports methane-lake boats for the adventurous.
To date, no professional gondoliers have ventured beyond the Solar System for interstellar tourism.
- The most popular routes involve the Apollo and Lunokhod landing sites.
- Europa is generally excluded from anything but orbital tours; the gondoliers keep the Old Covenant.
- Aria Field was nearly abandoned during the Boskone War, with only two residents at its least-populated.