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Mark Robinson: Behind the scenes with Intercruises

Mark Robinson, Intercruises Managing Director
Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services, an experienced global business offering first class ground handling and port agency services to the ocean and river cruise industry, has been directed by Mark Robinson for nearly a decade. Mark has over 25 years of experience working in tourism, half of which he has dedicated to the cruise industry. During his time onboard cruise ships, Mark specialized in cruise ground services, which eventually led him to start Intercruises in 2003. Intercruises provides cruise lines with smooth turnaround, port agency, shore excursion and hotel reservation services all tailored to meet the needs of each vessel. Since the business began in Spain in 2003, Intercruises has expanded to reach every continent and operates in over 300 ports worldwide. 

Mark is well aware of the very high standard of service within the cruise industry and drives Intercruises teams to exceed market expectations. He is committed to supporting cruise lines in all areas, including Health & Safety, ensuring all operations teams undertake emergency response training, which prepares them to handle any unforeseen event that could occur during turnaround. This commitment led Intercruises to co-organize the International Humanitarian Assistance Symposium (IHAS) in June 2012, a cross industry meeting to enhance industry response to emergencies and disasters, ensuring those involved in an unforeseen tragedy are given the support they need. Upon his return from the event, we took the opportunity to speak with Mark and find out how Intercruises has developed over the years… 

Welcome, Mark. We are pleased you are here to launch the interview section of Off Radar titled "Talk To". We aim not only to cover the latest cruise news, but to explore how the industry operates behind the scenes. Firstly, why did you start Intercruises? 

While working onboard I was surprised by how the level of service delivered to cruise vessels varied between each port. When we launched Intercruises in 2003, our goal was to start a reliable ground handling business that supported cruise lines with a consistently high standard of service in all destinations, without losing the personal aspect of the service, such as the local knowledge and contacts vital to this industry. To achieve this we employ locally in each port and provide full Intercruises training to all staff. We then monitor the performance of every team in an effort to maintain consistency in the service delivery across all regions; the key objective when starting the business. 

What made you choose a career in tourism and how did this lead you to the cruise industry? 

I have been passionate about travelling since I was young and first became involved in the tourism industry at the age of twenty, by working abroad as a holiday rep, which over the years took me to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Africa. As my knowledge of the industry developed, I became more drawn towards the cruise market and after a spell working for a cruise line, I started Intercruises. 

How has Intercruises grown into the brand we know today? 

Intercruises was launched to provide specialist ground services that uphold the high level of service quality that is expected by both cruise lines and their guests. By working closely with our clients we understand their operational requirements and are able to customize and develop our services to better suit their needs. These close relationships have helped define the Intercruises brand and are key to the business’ ongoing growth. 

Since its beginnings, Intercruises has seen outstanding year-on-year organic growth. We have also grown through acquisitions, but have always seen organic growth of the organization acquired, testament to the high standard of service we deliver. This level of service is sustained by internal investment in our teams, such as training for all full time and seasonal staff, including Health & Safety and emergency response procedures. Another factor important to our growth is the support provided to our regional teams by the different departments in the Intercruises Head Office - Legal, Marketing, Finance, Strategy, Contracting - which combine with our operation personnel to ensure we deliver the best service possible. Our Head Office resources and internal investment mean we can better support cruise lines and continue to enhance our service, which ultimately drives the growth of the Intercruises´ brand. 

How else would you like to see Intercruises grow? 

Our growth reflects the evolution of the cruise industry. We continue to explore expansion opportunities to better complement the wide-ranging itineraries of cruise lines, which has led us to deliver services in many new and emerging destinations. 

While expansion is important, the quality of service we deliver in the ports where we currently operate is our priority. We continually evaluate our teams´ performance using quality controls, such as ISO frameworks, which are now in place following our achievement of the ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management) accreditations. This helps ensure that Intercruises operates responsibly as a business and that our teams deliver a consistently high-standard service to cruise lines, which is safe, sustainable and tailored to their needs. This type of business practice is illustrative of how we hope to continue the growth of Intercruises as a responsible and forward-thinking industry leader. 

What obstacles have you faced when establishing an Intercruises base in regions that are harder to reach? 

Due to inherent cultural differences, applying our services to certain parts of the world proved more complicated than many of our longer established destinations. Our growth within these regions has been led by our Regional Directors, who manage local teams in ports across various countries, delivering a high standard of service while respecting local culture and tradition. Our training programmes are carried out in every region to ensure that the standards of cruise lines are recognized in all of our culturally diverse destinations. 

When a ship arrives, what is the most challenging part? 

Depending on the scale of the operation, a ship´s arrival can require the coordination of hundreds of employees, from port agents to shore excursion teams. Our turnaround experts look after the cruise guests and crew, as well as the ships, which need supplies, maintenance and repair services. Our objective is for all operations to run like clockwork, which requires meticulous planning and logistical organization, especially with regard to the turnaround process, the largest and most complex operation. 

What has been the most rewarding or satisfying experience for you? 

Intercruises has received very positive feedback from its clients and partners, shown through appreciative words or emails and also the numerous cruise line awards we have won. Knowing that we have delivered our services to their satisfaction is certainly the most rewarding part of the business. While we celebrate our accomplishments, we are always looking for new ways to develop as a business. 

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Mark. Your time and consideration is greatly appreciated by our Off Radar readers. We wish you continued success in the cruising industry and look forward to watching your company continue to support the cruise industry and in finding ways to keep improving the system. 

Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis 
OffRadarCruiseNews, Editor
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