Princess Cruises apologizes for 'cultural insensitivity' after workers dress up in Māori costumes

The cruise ship company, Princess Cruises, has been accused of cultural appropriation. (Photo: Getty Images)
The cruise ship company, Princess Cruises, has been accused of cultural appropriation. (Photo: Getty Images)

A cruise ship company has apologized for "cultural insensitivity" after staff dressed in inaccurate Māori costumes, painted their faces, and performed a traditional Māori welcoming ceremony. None of the employees who were photographed, captured by one of the ship’s photographers, appeared to be a member of the indigenous group.

On Monday, guests onboard Princess Cruises' Golden Princess ship arrived at the Port of Tauranga in New Zealand and were welcomed by a group of men wearing “crude skirts” with "scribbles" on their faces, according to the New Zealand Herald. At the port, the employees of the ship performed a version of the pōwhiri ceremony and posed for photos with the visitors.

According to a Facebook user, who goes by Steve the Maori, who shared photos of the incident on his page, "a lot of [cruise] companies employ local Maori Cultural groups to sing or perform dances... welcoming travellers to shore but in this situation Princess Cruises (purely an assumption based off the branding of the tent) are using their own non NZ staff, with careless scribbles on their faces wearing skirts which do not depict Maori culture which I personally find a disgrace."

A Princess Cruises spokeswoman, speaking with the New Zealand Herald, confirmed that the incident was organized by their cruise ship, Golden Princess, and that they were "very disappointed" it had happened.

"We give a complete assurance that no offense was ever intended and we apologize unreservedly for what has happened. We took immediate steps to address this sensitive situation. 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," the company said in a statement to the outlet.

"It is blatant racism and exploitation of Māori culture and of staff by the company," Māori cultural advisor Karaitiana Taiuru told the Herald. "It is derogatory and there is no excuse for such behavior in today's age where other actions have been in the media and criticized. Anyone with a basic understanding of the English language with access to any sort of media, whether it is a newspaper, radio or the internet, should be aware of the offensiveness. There is absolutely no excuse for an international company to operate like this in New Zealand."

Added Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive, Paora Stanley: “Our plea to the cruise liner is, just stop. Think about what you are doing.”

Princess Cruises, as well as Taiuru and Stanley, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.

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