A volcano on New Zealand’s White Island erupted today while a couple of tour groups were visiting the location. One excursion was from the Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas which was  reportedly visiting the island.

Numerous news organizations report that around fifty people were visiting White Island when a volcano erupted on Monday afternoon (New Zealand time). Many of the visitors were present at the crater of the volcano shortly before it exploded. The blast reportedly injured a number of visitors and left many of them missing and unaccounted for.

Several news organization in New Zealand report that “many of those on the island were from a cruise ship visiting New Zealand, Ovation of the Seas . . . ”

Royal Caribbean advertises a “White Island Volcano Experience Cruise and Guided Exploration,” excursion number TR93, (cache copy) as one of its shore excursions for New Zealand, at a cost of USD $324.00 per adult. Royal Caribbean deleted the description of the tour on its website, although a cache view of the tour is still available.  The cruise line promised “an unforgettable guided tour of New Zealand’s most active volcano …” Highlights of the White Island excursion included:

  • ‘Tour one of the world’s most active volcanos; your tour takes you directly to the crater complex, since most of the volcano sits beneath the sea . . . “
  • “Get close to the drama: Gas masks help you get near roaring steam vents, bubbling pits of mud, hot volcanic streams and the amazing lake of steaming acid . . .”

There are no officials statements yet from Royal Caribbean regarding the incident.

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Update: Six people are confirmed dead. Around eight people are still missing, and around thirty are reportedly injured.

Cruise lines have a legal duty to conduct a thorough background check into the reputation, qualifications and safety record of the tour operators which they involve in their excursions for their guests. They are legally required under U.S. maritime law to vet the individuals and companies who/which provide excursions in ports of call. Cruise lines also have a legal duty to warn passengers of dangers which they know or should know about.

Royal Caribbean operates many thousands of excursions around the world. It would require the cruise line to vet and inspect ten to fifteen foreign excursion companies around the world each and every day of the year if it were inclined to perform a background check on each tour operator at least once a year. The cruise line does not devote the resources necessary to properly vet and oversee the safe operation of excursions around the world, despite the hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars it collects from its passengers who take such cruise excursions.

Photo credit: John Arrieta (Twitter) via Daily Mail; video credit: Michael Schade twitter – @sch.