The multinational cruise ship company behind a "pantomime pōwhiri" that has been slammed as "blatant racism" says no offence was intended.

This morning guests from the Golden Princess cruise ship, run by Princess Cruises - the world's third-largest cruise line, were welcomed at the Port of Tauranga by several men in crude skirts with "scribbles" across their faces.

Video shows the men appearing to be pretending to perform a pōwhiri, the traditional Māori welcoming ceremony.

A Princess Cruises spokeswoman confirmed to the Herald the ceremony had been organised by their vessel, the Golden Princess.

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She said the company was "very disappointed" the situation had occurred.

"We give a complete assurance that no offence was ever intended and we apologise 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."

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The company did not answer further questions posed by the Herald about how the situation came about.

Mana whenua Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said it was "silly, frustrating and insulting, all at the same time".

There were plenty of local operators who could perform culturally appropriate pōwhiri, he said.

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"Our plea to the cruise liner is, just stop. Think about what you are doing.

"Get in touch with us and we can put you in touch with people who can do a far better, and appropriate, job."

Along with the offence caused to Māori, Stanley said it was a terrible way to greet international guests.

"For the manuhiri to be treated with a pantomime pōwhiri like this beggars belief, and further perpetuates racist myths.

"The cruise industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, they've got some responsibility to do the right thing."

Māori cultural advisor Karaitiana Taiuru said there was no excuse for the cruise ship company's actions.

"It is blatant racism and exploitation of Māori culture and of staff by the company.

"It is derogatory and there is absolutely no excuse for an international company to operate like this in New Zealand, especially in today's age where other actions have been in the media and criticised."

Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said the display was
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said the display was "silly, frustrating and insulting, all at the same time". Photo / File

A Tourism Bay of Plenty spokeswoman said they were "saddened and offended by the incident".

"Tourism Bay of Plenty condemns the appropriation of Māori culture and we are disappointed to see this happen in Tauranga Moana."

They supported the right of local iwi and hapū to manaaki (welcome) cruise visitors, and worked closely with Ngāi Te Rangi to develop local tourism opportunities that were authentic and culturally appropriate.

They acknowledged Princess Cruises' "unreserved apology" and hoped to work with them and tangata whenua to ensure this never happened again.

"We hope Princess Cruises can use the community's reaction as a cultural guideline for future engagement with tangata whenua in Aotearoa and abroad."

A Port of Tauranga spokeswoman said while they were not responsible for tourism activities, what happened this morning was "not acceptable".

In 2010 Tauranga tour operator came under fire for hiring foreign workers to wear traditional Māori dress.

Other recent instances of cultural appropriation include last year, when Hawera Mt View Lions Club used blackface as part of its Christmas parade, and the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival which ran an advertisement featuring a woman wearing Māori designs and a native American head dress.

The most infamous, though, could be the University of Auckland School of Engineering's "haka party", where students performed their own version of Ka Mate while drunk, with obscenities painted on their bodies and wearing hard hats, boots and grass skirts.

The last "haka" occurred in 1979, after the protest group He Taua confronted the students, resulting in hospital admissions, stitches and broken bones.