Nearly a week after the deadly Whakaari/White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand, cruise ship Ovation of the Seas has returned to Sydney.
It comes after two deaths on the weekend brings the official death toll to 16 – five of whom have been formally identified by yesterday.
The 16th person died on Saturday after being repatriated to Australia, police said yesterday afternoon.
As of 6.30am, 14 people remained in hospitals across New Zealand, while another 13 people had been transferred to Australia.
FIRST PASSENGERS DISEMBARK
The Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas arrived in Sydney Harbour early this morning.
Some of the tourists visiting Whakaari/White Island at the time of the volcano eruption were passengers on the ship.
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Asked what the mood was like on board, passenger Jason Cottrell told news.com.au, "Well that day was, it was terrible".
He added, "On board for the past week or so it's been really sombre but Royal Caribbean did a really good job to make everyone happy."
"TERRIBLE": FURIOUS DAD SLAMS CRUISE LINE
Another passenger slammed Royal Caribbean, saying the cruise line handled the tragedy and welfare of its customers "terribly".
The tearful father clutched an A4 piece of paper with generic mental health advice, which he said was the extent of the company's duty of care.
He said his son had made friends on board with two of the victims, and was frustrated with the lack of information and mental health support.
"They say they will offer you mental health support on and this is what they gave people on the last night," he said.
"I have a 17-year-old boy and this is what I got."
While some passengers have praised the captain, the father, who didn't want to be named, was highly critical.
"The worst thing is the way Royal Caribbean handled this. It was terrible," he said.
"The captain didn't even tell us what was happening. We had to watch the news. It was a prison ship in the end, you weren't allowed to know anything."
Jo-Anne Henderson said it was heartbreaking.
"It was terrible, we were all so sorry that we were enjoying ourselves while people were [dying]," she said.
"It was very sombre on board. A lot of crying. A lot of people crying for many, many days, even up to yesterday there were still tears. It was so painful, it broke my heart."
She said the ship crew handled everything well.
"Our captain was wonderful. He kept popping up and making announcements to let us know. Royal Caribbean did a brilliant job," she said.
She thinks she met one of the victims.
"She was a beautiful lady."
Anderson said passengers were aware something was up when the bags of passengers began to be removed from rooms and taken away.
"All we could do was pray for all these poor people, and keep praying for them."
Speaking to Nine News, passenger Troy said many on the ship were unaware what had happened at first.
"On the day the captain was calling for people to report to guest services. We thought maybe people were [running] late and it was later on that we heard what had happened," he said.
"We didn't really find out a great deal of info until probably 6.30, 7.30 that night and they told us there had been an incident."
Troy said the crew were "really good".
"They were trying to stay upbeat and happy and do what they could but you could tell they were hurting. I think the captain was breaking down crying a fair bit."
VOLCANO 'HAD BEEN PLAYING UP'
Passenger Karen Kociszewski said there were rumours something was wrong on the day.
"We were waiting to leave Tauranga and they kept calling for people, so we just assumed they were running late.
"From what we read that volcano's been playing up since October, so I do think people should not have been taken. Someone needs to be held accountable, definitely the cruise company, because it's sad people aren't going home."
Kociszewski said Royal Caribbean should have "done their homework".
"You sign a waiver to say that, you know, you go there and if you break your ankle you're not going to sue them, but you don't go there thinking this is going to happen.
"It's not right. Apparently the locals were saying it had been playing up."
Kociszewski said one of the ship's chefs broke down in tears on board because he knew one of the tour guides who had been involved.