Cruise ship passengers were shocked to learn some of their fellow travellers are believed to be among the injured on White Island.
The Ovation of the Seas was yesterday berthed at Tauranga Harbour and some passengers had been scheduled to visit the island, having caught buses to Whakatāne.
Port company chief executive Mark Cairns said he understood the majority of those injured in the eruption were from the ship. Some travelled by bus, sometimes wealthy passengers also travelled by helicopter, he said.
The cruise ship did not depart as it was originally scheduled to last night.
Passengers at Salisbury Wharf said they were shocked to learn of the eruption.
North Queensland couple Rachel Brown and Dallas Goode were buzzing after spending time touring around Tauranga as they returned to the ship. "Oh my God, it's really scary and so, so sad, " Brown said.
Australian Nigel Walker said his thoughts were those who were injured and unaccounted for. "It's tragic ... I was only saying to my mother-in-law before the cruise that White Island would be a great pĺace to visit. "
The New Zealand Cruise Association stated its main concern was for the wellbeing of the passengers.
"We would like to extend our heartfelt concern to the passengers and their families," NZCA chief executive officer Kevin O'Sullivan said.
The ship was on a 12-day voyage from Australia and had called at the Bay of Islands and Auckland after leaving Sydney last Wednesday.
It was scheduled to arrive at Wellington on Wednesday before cruising around the South Island and then back to Sydney.
At 168,000 gross tonnes, Ovation is the biggest ship to cruise New Zealand waters.
There are 4579 passengers and 1595 crew onboard the ship.