Princess Cruises said it took immediate steps to address the “sensitive situation”. (Facebook: Steve the Maori )
The cruise company accused of using impersonators in grass skirts with “scribbles” on their faces to perform a traditional Maori welcome to New Zealand has apologised.
- Complaints said non-Maori men wearing black face paint performed a powhiri, which is a traditional welcoming ceremony
- The performance was called “deplorable” and described as a “disgrace” on social media
- Princess Cruises, the company that operates the cruise, posted statement saying it apologised “unreservedly” for the culturally insensitive display
Images posted on social media show a group of non-Maori men performing a powhiri, a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony, for Golden Princess cruise ship passengers at the Port of Tauranga on Monday.
The men can be seen with black designs painted on their faces, which appear to be an attempt of mimicking traditional tattoos.
A post criticising the cruise company from the Steve the Maori Facebook page has been shared more than 1,300 times.
The administrator of the page took aim at the cruise company for having men “with careless scribbles on their faces wearing skirts which do not depict Maori culture which I personally find a disgrace”.
“I find it deplorable to blatantly lie to guests in a racist attempt to save money on local performers so they can sell photos… this practice needs to be discouraged,” the post said.
Facebook post from Steve the Maori: “Many cruise ships when travelling to NZ Ports, such as the Port of Tauranga opt to have a traditional Maori Welcome (Powhiri) welcoming the 3000+ guests. From there they board buses and head to Rotorua, often there is no mention of Tauranga as the Cruise companies actually list Rotorua as the destination port in order to ferry everybody on buses and send them away to the tourist meca.”
The post prompted a series of complaints on the Princess Cruises Facebook page.
“What’s with the fake pantomime powhiri by people who aren’t tangata whenua in Tauranga?” one said.
Others threatened to cancel their voyages with the cruise company.
Paora Stanley, chief executive of Ngai Te Rangi (the local Maori tribe), told the New Zealand Herald the display was silly and insulting.
He said local operators were available who could perform powhiri for guests to the area.
“We can put you in touch with people who can do a far better, and appropriate, job,” told the newspaper.
“The cruise industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry. They’ve got some responsibility to do the right thing.”
The company did not return the ABC’s request for comment on Tuesday afternoon but posted an apology in the comments section of a Facebook complaint.
“We took immediate steps to address this sensitive situation,” the statement said.
“After being made aware of the situation, the ship’s management team took action to withdraw the crew members 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.”