CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 11, 2015 – Pop quiz: What do people who create greeting cards, write children’s books and captain a 65,000-ton cruise ship have in common? If you happen to be Hans Mateboer, the answer is “Quite a lot,” since all these apparently disparate interests reside in the same eclectic individual.
Born in the Netherlands, Capt. Hans Mateboer now calls Charlotte, N.C., his home for the approximately six months out of the year when he is not at sea. But don’t let his six-month-on, six-month-off schedule fool you. Literally a man for all seasons, he is truly a modern “Renaissance man.”
Mateboer launched his career on cargo vessels before becoming captain of the Rotterdam on the Holland America Line. In between, he worked as a safety/navigation officer and a staff captain and was also a primary consultant to the Disney conglomerate during the development that company’s now-popular Disney Cruise Line.
He worked for Disney for a total of six years, two of which took place before the line had even placed its first cruise ship in service. During that period, he was responsible for assisting the company with the set-up and design of the line.
After his time at Disney, Mateboer returned to Holland America, where his sailing schedule has him on duty for approximately three months and off duty for three months. During his “off” months, however, he is still required to take refresher courses to keep abreast of innovations in the cruise industry.
While most people think of cruising as glamorous, he says the day-to-day operation of a ship is more like running a diverse business. He is on the ship’s bridge for every arrival and departure as well as during special events and emergencies. Otherwise his primary tasks are keeping his crew happy and doing public relations with passengers.
Perhaps surprisingly, the multi-talented captain also serves as the “designated doctor” aboard his ship. That’s because the vessel’s medical staff actually works under the captain’s supervision. Equally surprising: an independent survey recently rated Holland America’s medical services the best of any cruise line.
So how exactly did writing children’s books and creating greeting cards come into Mateboer’s life?
As is true with almost any sea captain, Mateboer is a citizen of the world, meaning he has been just about everywhere during his travels. Consequently, chit-chat and shop talk do not interest him as much as satisfying his natural curiosity.
“I like to talk to interesting people,” he says. With admirable modesty, he does not imagine himself in that category. “I have talked with the owner of an airline and a Nobel Prize winner, and I am always thinking of things to do.”
It was during one of those periods of introspection that Mateboer decided to try his hand at writing children’s books. Not only did he succeed in this completely different line of work; he has sold more than 85,000 copies of his books.
Geared toward older children who are beginning to read with greater attention to detail, Mateboer’s first book, “The Captain’s Log,” was published in softcover 2004. It vividly describes many of his own experiences at sea and provides interesting and detailed information about life aboard a busy cruise ship.
“Peter the Cruise Ship,” published in 2007, was the first of a series of books designed with younger children in mind, much in the spirit of W. Awdry’s “Thomas the Train” books. Later Mateboer added “Peter the Cruise Ship and the Pirates” and “To Alaska (Peter the Cruise Ship)” to his growing list of titles. Each hardcover edition in this series is a slick, high-quality publication filled with colorful, cheerful illustrations.
Though writing has always been a part of Mateboer’s life, he also decided to immerse himself in another project by creating a line of sea-themed greeting cards. For the moment, there are two series of three cards each, which can be found on his website.
The first series features maps of the Virgin Islands, the Fiji Islands and the Greek Islands, all destinations on Holland America itineraries. The second group contains three watercolor renditions of life aboard a cruise ship.
Like most Europeans, especially the Dutch, Mateboer is fluent in three languages: Dutch, English and German. Says the captain, “I can also get by in French, Italian, Spanish and Danish.” Say no more.
As for the cruises themselves, Mateboer observes that longer cruises generally attract an older clientele since they face fewer time restrictions and have more disposable income.
He prefers the Eastern Mediterranean for cruising because ports there are smaller, less crowded and easier to negotiate with his massive ship.
As if his other interests were not enough, Mateboer also owns and rents out four high-end log homes adjacent to West Virginia’s Pipestem Resort State Park. Here you can enjoy a variety of activities including hiking, archery and theater.
The captain’s philosophy has always been this: “At the end of life I want to look back and say I did different things.” That certainly goes without saying.
To meet the captain in person, all you need to do is book a cruise aboard the Rotterdam when he is on duty. Indeed, Capt. Mateboer is truly one cruise ship captain who never fails to “write” his ship.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News