'It was terrible': Passengers hit out at cruise staff over response to volcano tragedy

A father has slammed the response from cruise ship staff in the wake of the deadly White Island volcano eruption as he and other passengers returned to Sydney on Monday morning.

There were emotional scenes at Circular Quay as tearful passengers arrived on the Ovation of the Seas after their tragic cruise to New Zealand.

Some 47 people were on the island when the volcano erupted a week ago, many of them were passengers from the cruise ship taking a tour of the island.

Two deaths on the weekend brought the official toll from the blast to 16. Ten of those victims were Australian.

Royal Caribbean International's cruise ship Ovation of the Seas arrives in Sydney Harbour on Monday morning. Source: AAP

‘Terrible’ response from captain and crew

Some people were visibly upset as they disembarked, with one father, who wished not to be named, said the people on the ship were left in the dark as the tragedy unfolded.

"I've got a son that's 17 who lost two friends that he made. We didn't know how many people were missing," he told reporters.

The man slammed the way the cruise ship handled the way the situation.

“The worst thing is the way Royal Caribbean handled this. It was terrible," he told news.com.au.

"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."

Passengers disembark the cruise ship. Source: AAP


He showed reporters an information sheet about mental health handed to his family on the day prior to disembarking the ship.

The father said his son was “not OK” and was seeking medical help late last night.

Another passenger called Joanne was tearful as she talked to reporters at Circular Quay about the passengers who didn't come home.

"They're people, people that went on my holiday of a lifetime that I've waited 50 years for and they never got to come home ... dreadful."

She told how she had been upset seeing suitcases being removed from the ship.

"(It) just broke my heart," she said.

Others praised the ship's crew for their handling of the situation.

Two people still missing on White Island

Two people are still missing, with their bodies believed to be in the waters around White Island, also known as Whakaari.

Twelve people are being treated in Australian hospitals after being repatriated with severe burns.

The cruise ship left Sydney for New Zealand on December 4.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is flying to New Zealand on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Passengers were visibly down as they made their way off the vessel. Source: AAP

The visit comes after another Australian victim caught in the eruption died in Sydney's Concord Hospital on Sunday.

Ms Payne said her visit was to "express our deep appreciation for the professional and quick response of the New Zealand emergency and medical services and the care they have provided to Australian survivors of the eruption".

"Our hearts go out to all of the families and loved ones of those affected."

After completing the disaster victim identification work, New Zealand police on Sunday also released the names of seven more people, including four Australians and two Americans with Australian permanent residency, who died in the tragedy.

They are Adelaide schoolgirl Zoe Hosking, 15, her stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53, Karla Mathews, 32, and Sydney man Anthony Langford, 51.

Sydney high school students and brothers Matthew and Berend Hollander, 13 and 16, who were US citizens, were also named.

NSW Health on Sunday confirmed the death of an Australian man in Sydney, whose family asked that he not be named.

"NSW Health wishes to pass on our condolences to the family."

A recovery team returned to New Zealand's White Island on Sunday but was unable to retrieve the remains of the two people still missing after the eruption.

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