Charles Chestnutt: Creole Queen Historical Cruise Guide
The guides on the Historical Cruise are who make it and the stories from the development of New Orleans and Battle of New Orleans come to life. Meet Charles Chesnutt, who found his perfect fit in New Orleans as one of the Historical Cruise guides on the Creole Queen.
Creole Queen: Describe your role as the historical guide on the Creole Queen:
Charles: I narrate the history of New Orleans and explain where the city came from and the events that led up to the battle itself, hitting the highlights and most interesting parts.
What is your favorite story or piece of history to share?
There are a few. I like the story of the very first riverboat and what a spectacularly exciting trip that was. It was four months. It had a huge amount of things happen in that short amount of time. I always like the lead up to the war, explaining what the reasons were and the fact that we invaded Canada and got beaten by the citizens of Canada, which is a story that is taught in Canadian schools but not American ones.
What is your favorite part about being a Historical Cruise guide on the Creole Queen?
I have found a job where I tell stories and explain things. I love the work itself. I love crafting the narrative and the language. I’m essentially giving speeches and I really enjoy it.
What brought you to New Orleans?
I was a lawyer for about five years in Texas and I hated it. About a year and a half ago, I walked away and said I was going to find something else to do with my life. I traveled all over the country – went to five different states and did a bunch of different things. I ended up here, and this was going to be a temporary job for the summer, but I took to this job like a duck to water and I find it incredibly rewarding and satisfying and I’m not going to leave.
What do you love about New Orleans?
I like the people, I like the atmosphere, I like the relaxed nature of life here, I like that people are more interested in having a good life rather than accumulating stuff. It’s not a very materialistic city. A good life is not measured by how much you have, but rather by how much you actually live. That fits my personality.
What is your background in history?
I studied history at West Point and then when I was in law school I went to England and lived there for three months and studied in Oxford. I spent a great deal of time in England traveling and soaking in the history.
Why do you think visitors should experience the Historical Cruise?
I think it’s an interesting quirk of history. If it is presented correctly, it’s something that everyone will enjoy. I’ve talked to people on the boat who will frequently tell me they never paid attention in history class and never enjoyed it, but when they listen to me that it comes alive. If it’s told correctly, it’s an incredibly fascinating story. It’s interesting, it’s got heroes and villains, it’s exciting. If you can make it come alive for people, they walk away with an understanding with how it all fit together, it allows them to enjoy their visit to New Orleans more because they understand the city more than they otherwise would have. You can’t do that if you aren’t exposed to it and if it’s presented in a dry manner. It has to be done in an engaging way and that’s probably the best benefit for people riding the boat. You enhance your trip by taking the cruise.
How do you personalize the cruise when you’re the guide?
There’s a few jokes in there to make people laugh, and a few for my own amusement that I’m waiting for someone to get one day. I make a Monty Python reference that nobody gets.