An elderly passenger on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship died suddenly yesterday afternoon, while the ship was berthed in Napier.

While docked at Napier Port, the man believed to be in his eighties suffered a medical event.

Police and ambulance attended, but he was unable to be revived.

A spokesperson for Carnival Australia, which accounts for a number of cruise lines including Princesses Cruises, confirmed that the Diamond Princess medical team had assisted an elderly guest who experienced a medical event while the ship was visiting Napier yesterday.

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"Out of respect for the guest and family, we will make only a brief response."

"The guest was transferred from Diamond Princess by a local ambulance but has sadly passed away. The ship's Care team is providing full support to the guest's travelling companions," he noted.

The spokesman said an incident of this kind is relatively infrequent, with more than 20 million people worldwide cruising each year.

"Cruise ships have sophisticated medical centres and health professionals on board to look after the health needs of communities at sea on cruise holidays."

The ship, which carries up to 2,670 passengers, departed for Tauranga a short time after the man's death.