Princess Cruises has issued an “unreserved apology for cultural insensitivity” after non-indigenous staff dressed up as Māori to welcome guests ashore.
The incident, in the Port of Tauranga on Monday morning, was captured on video and showed a group of men, none of whom appear to be Māori, attempting to perform a traditional powhiri in grass skirts with black squiggles drawn on their faces and bodies.
The cruise ship company quickly apologised, issuing a statement saying: “After being made aware of the situation, the ship’s management team took action to withdraw the ship photographers from the area to prevent any further possibility of cultural insensitivity.
“We give a complete assurance that no offence was ever intended and we apologise unreservedly for what has happened.”
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell told Stuff he had received numerous calls about the incident, describing it as showing “a complete lack of cultural awareness”.
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley told the New Zealand Herald: “Our plea to the cruise liner is, just stop. Think about what you are doing.”
And Māori cultural advisor Karaitiana Taiuru added that it was “blatant racism and exploitation of Māori culture and of staff by the company.”
Criticism online was equally swift and damning.
On Facebook, Steve the Maori described as “a disgrace” the images of staff “with careless scribbles on their faces wearing skirts which do not depict Maori culture”.
One commenter on the post said: “This is so not how I want my country portrayed” and another said: “This is how the world will see Maori culture if this continues… it’s not only a mockery but distasteful and disrespectful”.
The incident occurred at 6.30am, shortly after the cruise line’s Golden Princess arrived in Tauranga. Cruise operators often employ genuine kapa haka to welcome guests at the busy North Island port.