With three last blasts of the horn Ovation of the Seas has departed Tauranga.

Crowds gathered this morning on the wharf to wave goodbye to guests of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

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Of the 47 people on White Island during Monday's eruption, 38 were cruise passengers from the Ovation.

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It's a quiet and still morning on the water as about 60 people waited to farewell the ship. Crying could be heard on the wharf.

One woman, who wished not to be named, makes signs for every cruise ship but said this time she wanted to make sure it was special. Photo / Leah Tebbutt
One woman, who wished not to be named, makes signs for every cruise ship but said this time she wanted to make sure it was special. Photo / Leah Tebbutt

A father and daughter were among many of those standing at the wharf who wanted to pay their respects.

"It's important to remember their families around Christmas time and all those who won't be going home to their families," the father who wished to remain anonymous said.

"It is quietly emotional this morning with everyone standing here trying to show some respect in some way."

It’s an emotional morning as people gather to wave off the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship depart.

Posted by Bay of Plenty Times on Tuesday, 10 December 2019

It was a somber mood this morning said one woman. She said usually the ships would play Love Boat with the horn, but this morning the ship was quiet and somber.

Cruise passengers can be seen on board their deck, standing and waving back to those at the wharf.

Ovation of the Seas departing Tauranga. Photo / Leah Tebbutt
Ovation of the Seas departing Tauranga. Photo / Leah Tebbutt

The ship has been docked in Tauranga Harbour for two days and was scheduled to leave the Port of Tauranga at 6.15pm yesterday but this was delayed due to police operational matters.

Yesterday afternoon the booming horn of the ship signalled at 3.59pm, marking the beginning of a moment's silence honouring those ship passengers and crew killed, hurt or still missing from the eruption.

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It was a moment not seen before at the Port of Tauranga - local Māori, dignitaries plus passengers and crew from a visiting cruise ship collectively praying for calm and healing.

Residents wave off the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship. Photo / Vandi Photography
Residents wave off the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship. Photo / Vandi Photography