‘Strange’ mood on volcano blast cruise ship
Passengers on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, have described the eerie moments on board after members of the cruise failed to return after a volcanic eruption on a day excursion to White Island.
Sydney man Ben Young said he was "sitting on The Ovation of The Seas pondering Tauranga and the volcano tour we didn't go on. Strange, solemn feeling right now," he wrote on Twitter.
"Have seen some very emotional scenes tonight. Captain and crew seem to be doing a great job."
Fellow passenger Kasey Bebrouth from Lismore, New South Wales said she was on board with her husband and said she was "very grateful that we stayed on the ship and we thank everyone for their kind words and worries."
"We will post more when we know more just know that we are safe," she said.
The mother of one streamed a dance performance that seemed to be given inside the ship on Monday night as a form of entertainment.
Earlier, Mrs Brebrouth had posted pictures and videos from her holiday, saying "awesome day I love new Zealand so far [sic]."
A Mount Maunganui woman known as Caro, posted on Twitter the mood in the town was "eerie" as the cruise ship remained docked in the bay.
"It's an eerie mood here in Mt Maunganui tonight. Looked out my window at #OvationoftheSeas sitting in dock. … quiet & sombre, waiting to see if, in the light of day, it's passengers & crew are returned," she said.
It's an erie mood here in Mt Maunganui tonight. Looked out my window at #OvationoftheSeas sitting in dock. ...quiet & sombre, waiting to see if, in the light of day, it's passengers & crew are returned. We live in hope.💖#Whiteisland💔— Caro (@MsMassage1) December 9, 2019
On Monday night, New Zealand police have confirmed at least five people died in the volcanic explosion with fears the final toll could be in the double digits. Around 50 people were thought to be on White Island at the time, with 23 taken off by boat.
Police said they expect to find no survivors on the island, and will send a Defence Force ship on Tuesday in a recovery operation.
New Zealand Cruise Association CEO Kevin O'Sullivan confirmed that a group of 30 to 38 people from the Ovation of the Seas were on a tour of White Island Monday and had not returned.
He said the names and nationalities of passengers were handed to police, and the Ovation of the Seas would stay docked in Tauranga at least overnight.
"I know the cruise ship will be able to compile a list of the tour party and they will be handing that to New Zealand police, and the police will then make a statement on the nationalities," he said.
"Our hope of course is they will be recovered unharmed and returned back to the ship."
A Royal Caribbean spokesman said: "We can confirm that a number of our guests were touring the island today. We do not have any additional details to share at this time.
"Ovation of the Seas will remain overnight until we learn more about the situation. We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities.
"Please keep all those affected in your prayers."