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Passengers on board the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship have described a shift in the mood of holidaymakers after being told the White Island tragedy involved some of their own.

Many passengers arriving into the Port of Tauranga yesterday were still coming to terms with the reality of something so tragic happening while they were on holiday.

Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for ABC. Photo / George Novak
Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for ABC. Photo / George Novak

Donna Field, a Queensland news editor for ABC, was a passenger on the Ovation of the Seas, which arrived into port on Monday.

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Field said passengers stood still as the ship's captain shared the news that those involved included passengers and crew.

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

"They were on holiday, nobody expects this to happen ... Everybody is just a bit shaken up."

Ovation of the Seas passenger Venessa Lugo, 24. Photo / George Novak
Ovation of the Seas passenger Venessa Lugo, 24. Photo / George Novak

Venessa Lugo, 24, said the captain sounded emotional when he addressed the passengers about the fatal eruption.

"He sounded very sincere. You could tell it has impacted him as well," she said.

"It was one of those things where you just stand there in shock. What are the chances this happens on your holiday?"

Lugo said she and her partner had considered doing the White Island tour but had opted out due to expenses and the fact she had asthma.

The tragedy had affected everyone, she said.

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"Everyone is quite upset. We are trying to show everyone we are strong and supporting one another."

Debbie and Steve Shapirl. Photo / George Novak
Debbie and Steve Shapirl. Photo / George Novak

Steve and Debbie Shapirl said there was silence as passengers listened to the captain's announcement.

"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 [the victims] in our prayers," he said. "We don't know who they are but we are deeply concerned."

Meanwhile, passengers on board the Norwegian Jewel fear it could have been them at White Island if they had arrived into Tauranga a day earlier.

Norwegian Jewel passenger Ed Lucy. Photo / George Novak
Norwegian Jewel passenger Ed Lucy. Photo / George Novak

Husband-and-wife Ed and Suzanne Lucy were woken by text messages from concerned family members as the ship sailed past White Island at about 4am yesterday.

"The sun was rising behind it and it formed a silhouette, but it wasn't a good picture," he said.

"We know that within less than a day it could have been us ... It is more personal when it could have been us."

Ed said the pair live in south Florida, where there were natural disasters "all the time", but said he felt for the people who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

"My heart goes out to them."

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