Princess Cruises has unreservedly apologised after staff from Golden Princess were filmed apparently posing as Maoris performing a traditional welcome in the New Zealand port of Tauranga.

The line said in a statement: “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 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.”

Princess executives were said to be devastated by what is seen as an isolated, one-off incident.

Mana whenua Ngāi Te Rangi, chief executive Paora Stanley, called the event a ‘pantomime pōwhiri’ (welcoming ceremony).

Mr Stanley and Tourism Bay of Plenty said in a joint statement: “We acknowledge Princess Cruises’ unreserved apology and hope to work with Princess Cruises and tangata whenua to ensure this never happens again. We hope that Princess Cruises can use the community’s reaction as a cultural guideline for future engagement with tangata whenua in Aotearoa and abroad.”

Princess Cruises, which maintains it takes more passengers to Australia and New Zealand than any other line, has spent years nurturing strong and close respectful relationships with Indigenous New Zealanders.

Princess has been among the cruise industry’s pioneers at building bridges with New Zealanders and ensuring local people receive benefit from welcoming passengers into their communities through its local connections program.

The line has seeded funds to develop a local market in Bay of Plenty featuring Indigenous and other businesses. Local leaders are delighted with the project, which has led to young residents staying and studying traditional enterprises because they now provide paying jobs.

Earlier this year, the line announced the Princess Local partnerships Program to help conserve wildlife and forest regeneration in the Bay of Islands and Northland, designed ton raise $1 million for community based activities to support culture and conservation.

The line also employs local Indigenous dance troupes to perform on their ships so passengers can experience genuine cultural experiences.

The present cruise season is expected to be one of the biggest for New Zealand, with projections of those arriving from overseas – particularly Australia, North America and Europe at 348,000 – up 27 per cent. Half will be Australians.

Cruise ships contribute $695 million to the local economy.