Friday, April 10, 2015

Hans Mateboer: Holland America Cruise Line’s “captain for all seasons”

Captain Hans Mateboer of Holland America Cruise Lines is an author of children's book among many other interests  (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTE, NC  What do someone who creates greeting cards, writes children’s books and captains a 65,000 ton cruise ship have in common? If you are HansMateboer, then they are all the same person.

Born in the Netherlands, Captain Hans Mateboer now calls Charlotte, NC his home approximately six months out of the year when he is not at sea. But don’t let his six-month-on, six-months-off schedule fool you, Captain Hans is a man for all seasons; a modern day “Renaissance man.”

Captain Hans "home away from home" the 65,000 ton Holland America Rotterdam  (wikipedia)
Mateboer began his career on cargo ships before becoming captain of the Rotterdam on Holland America Line. In between he worked as a safety/navigation officer and a staff captain and was also a primary consultants during the development of the Disney Cruise Line.

Hans worked for Disney for six years, two of which took place before the line even had a ship. During that time he was responsible for assisting with the set-up and design of the line.
Mateboer aboard the Rotterdam  (

Since his days with Disney, Mateboer has returned to Holland America where his schedule has him on duty approximately for three months and then off duty for three months. During his “off” months however, he is also required to take refresher courses to keep abreast of innovations in the cruise industry and honing his skills aboard ship.

While most people think of cruising as glamorous, Captain Hans says the day-to-day operation of a ship is more like running a diverse business. He is on the bridge for every arrival and departure as well as during special events and emergencies, but otherwise his primary tasks are keeping his crew happy and doing public relations with passengers.

He is also the “designated doctor” while aboard ship because the medical staff works under the captain’s supervision. As an aside, an independent survey recently rated Holland America’s medical services the best of any cruise line.

So how exactly did writing and greeting cards come into Mateboer’s life?

As with any sea captain, Mateboer is a citizen of the world, which means he has been just about everywhere during his travels. Consequently, chit-chat and shop talk do not interest Hans as much as satisfying his natural curiosity.

“I like to talk to interesting people,” says Hans who humbly does not regard himself in that same 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 contemplation that Mateboer decided to try his hand at writing children’s books. Not only did he succeed, he has sold more than 85,000 copies of his work.

Mateboer's first book  (wikipedia)
The first book, The Captain’s Log, which is geared to older children who are beginning to read with more detail, describes many of Mateboer’s own experiences at sea while providing information about life aboard a cruise ship. The soft cover book was published in 2004.

Peter the Cruise Ship, published in 2007, was the first of a series of books designed with younger children in mind, much in the genre of Thomas the Train. Later Captain Hans added Peter the Cruise Ship and the Pirates and To Alaska (Peter the Cruise Ship). Each hardcover edition is a slick high-quality publication filled with colorful, cheerful illustrations.

Mateboer’s books are available on board the Rotterdam, of course, where the captain will gladly autograph his work or they can be ordered online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Peter the Cruise Ship was the first of a series of colorfully illustrated books by Capt. Hans  (wikipedia)
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.

One 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.

As with 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.

Coastline of Sicily, Captain Hans favorite ports are the eastern Mediterranean  (Taylor)  
As for the cruises themselves, longer cruises generally have older clientele due to less time restrictions and more disposable income.

Hans personally prefers the Eastern Mediterranean because ports are smaller and easier to negotiate with his massive ship.

As if his other interests were not enough, Captain Hans also has four high-end log homes available for rent in West Virginia in Pipestem State Park. Here you can enjoy a variety of activities including hiking, archery and theater among others.
Black Bear Cabin at Pipestem  (

The captain’s philosophy has always been “At the end of the life I want to look back and say I did different things.”

That goes without saying. To meet the captain in person, you need only to sail aboard the Rotterdam when Hans is on duty. Captain Mateboer is truly one captain who never fails to “write” his ship.