The Bay of Plenty community is being urged to head down to Pilot Bay to wave off the affected cruise ship passengers tonight.

A number of passengers from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship were involved in yesterday's Whakaari/ White Island eruption.

All passengers have been deeply affected by the tragic event, said the Tauranga City Council and Tourism Bay of Plenty in a statement.

The statement asked for locals to come down and show their support as the ship departs the Port of Tauranga at 6.15pm today.

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Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for the ABC, has been holidaying on board the Ovation of the Seas. Photo / George Novak
Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for the ABC, has been holidaying on board the Ovation of the Seas. Photo / George Novak

"Now, more than ever, we're calling on our community to join together and ensure we take care of those Ovation of the Seas passengers who will remain in Tauranga to be with their loved ones," Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said.

He said they had been caught up in something that will have a "long-lasting impact" on all of their lives.

Local Iwi Ngāi Te Rangi will be offering a Karakia Tau Te Mauri for the affected passengers at 4pm today. The Karakia Tau Te Mauri will take place inside the Port of Tauranga gates to settle the wairua of those affected before departing.

Ovation of the Seas passengers Debbi and Steve Shapiril talk about the mood on the ship. Photo / George Novak
Ovation of the Seas passengers Debbi and Steve Shapiril talk about the mood on the ship. Photo / George Novak

The Ovation of the Seas arrived at the Port of Tauranga yesterday morning.

Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for the ABC, has been holidaying on board the Ovation of the Seas.

Flowers at the entrance to the cruise ship terminal in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
Flowers at the entrance to the cruise ship terminal in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

Field said she was climbing up Mauao yesterday when the eruption happened and saw what she thought was just smoke. Her daughter had told her there had been a volcanic eruption and she said she immediately realised it was ash.

Field said the ship's captain made an announcement to the passengers yesterday.

"It was pretty grim," she said.

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She said everybody stood and listened as the captain shared the news that those involved in the eruption were passengers.

The cruise ship will leave the port tonight. Photo / Zoe Hunter
The cruise ship will leave the port tonight. Photo / Zoe Hunter

"The mood has changed dramatically," she said. "The holiday vibe everyone was in has shifted."

"They were on holiday, nobody expects this to happen."

Field said the passengers have been told to be back on board about 5.30pm but there is no word on when the ship would be departing.

"Everybody is just a bit shaken up," she said

Other passengers Steve and Debbie Shapirl, said the ship's captain made an announcement to the passengers yesterday.

"He said there was a tragedy that occurred and that we had missing passengers and crew from the volcano," Debbi said.

Royal Caribbean cruise liner Ovation of the Seas docks. Photo / File
Royal Caribbean cruise liner Ovation of the Seas docks. Photo / File

"When he made that first announcement to the 6000 something passengers on board you could hear a pin drop," Steve said.

"He asked that we keep them in our prayers," he said. "We don't know who they are but we are deeply concerned."

Debbi said they have been told to be back on board at 5.30pm but did not know when the ship would depart. She said but it was more important that the passengers who were injured are taken care of first.

The pair had decided not to take the White Island tour and instead toured Hobbiton.

A local man's post calling for locals to come down and toot their hoons in support as the cruise ship leaves was doing the rounds on social media.

The man's post asked that when the ship departed everybody in their cars around Pilot Bay and wherever should "sit on their horns" and "make as much noise" to show their thoughts were with them.

"Once the ship sounds its horn for departure, we as a community send the sound back."

A statement from Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi said a Karakia Tau Te Mauri would be held at 4pm at the cruise ship near the gates of the Port on Salisbury Ave.

Passengers and crew of the cruise ship and members of the local Tauranga community were invited to be part of the karakia. The purpose of a karakia was a Māori ritual to create a space of calm for people to reflect on the events of the past two days.

This process signals the beginning of a healing process.

The passengers affected were considered sacred, therefore it was the responsibility of the tangata whenua to initiate protocols around closure and healing.

Families of those injured were being directed back to the cruise ship in Tauranga where there was a support station.

Ngāti Awa, the mana whenua of the Whakatāne area has requested that Ngāi Te Rangi look after their cultural and spiritual presence in Tauranga during this tragedy.

The tragedy at Whakaari affected several iwi linked to Mātaatua Waka all of which have deep whakapapa to Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi.