Meet Tom Hacker, a captain for Chicago's First Lady Cruises who has been with the company since 2006. Tom first began his journey 13 seasons ago, working as a deckhand while attending Northern Illinois University in pursuit of his Bachelors of Science in Economics. Upon graduation, he decided to work towards his captain's license and is now a senior captain at Chicago's First Lady Cruises. Aside from being a captain, Tom also serves as a member of The Magnificent Mile Safety/Security Awareness Committee. Read Tom's interview below to learn more about him.
Why did you become a captain?
I was working for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises as a deckhand while attending college. Once I graduated, I decided to pursue my captain’s license and continue in a field I’m passionate about.
Tell us about your most interesting job.
Working on boats has definitely been the most interesting. I’ve been at Chicago’s First Lady Cruises for 13 years so my only other two jobs before this were bagging groceries and working retail.
As a child, what did you want to do when you “grew up”?
A fighter jet pilot, go figure. Unfortunately, I get motion sickness too easily. Regular pilot is still achievable though!
What is your favorite building on the tour and why?
150 N Riverside is a unique, new building at Wolf Point. I’ve seen all the other buildings so many times going up and down the river that it’s nice to see something new.
Tell us about a memorable experience on the job at Chicago’s First Lady Cruises/Mercury Cruises.
When I was promoted to Captain in 2011 and took my first ride on Chicago’s First Lady, which was our largest boat at the time.
Where did you grow up?
Northwest suburbs of Chicago.
What are three passions of yours?
I love staying active, reading, and watching movies.
Where in Chicago are your favorite places to…
- Unwind – Replay Arcade Bar in Lincoln Park
- Experience the great outdoors – I’ll go to Lincoln Park to pretend I’m not in the city for a bit or Matthiessen State Park if I’m able to escape Chicago.
- Grab a great cup of coffee/tea – I’m a basic Starbucks guy. Trenta iced coffee, black, unsweetened with light ice.
- Enjoy a delicious dinner – Chilam Balam in Lakeview
- Play tourist for a day (besides the cruise of course!) – Lincoln Park Zoo
What’s something about Chicago (restaurant, activity, destination, etc) that is a “hidden gem” of yours?
I love the North Pond of Lincoln Park. It’s quiet, secluded, has turtles, and is one of the few places in the city where you can get massacred by mosquitos.
What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done?
Just recently went on a solo trip to Spain! Now looking for more places to travel to alone.
What is the next destination on your travel wish list?
South America! Haven’t pinpointed the destination yet but thinking Peru or Argentina.
What has been your most interesting customer interaction?
I met Michael Madsen, an actor from a lot of Quentin Tarantino movies, on Chicago’s Little Lady during an architecture cruise. I let him drive the boat and tell me weird stories about filming Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill!
What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
I’ve always been a dog person but now I have a cat that I trained to use the toilet (both #1 and #2). How can a dog compete with that?
Do you have a favorite vessel? If yes, which one and why?
Chicago’s Fair Lady - though she is a different style from the other boats, the air conditioning works perfectly and she steers like a dream. What’s there not to like?
Tell us about a memorable charter.
My most memorable charter was my first on the Lady Grebe in 2017. I’m only the 3rd captain I know that our owner has entrusted steering that boat so it’s always a privilege to take out.