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Royal Caribbean test cruise leaves Galveston

The Independence of the Seas, with a few hundred unpaid invited guests, cruising VIPs and CDC officials on board, will go to Cozumel.
Credit: KHOU

GALVESTON, Texas — Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas departed Galveston on Sunday. The ship is heading to Cozumel.

It's a test cruise, so there were a few hundred unpaid invited guests, cruising VIPs and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials on board.

The test run is happening about two weeks ahead of the ship's first real cruise since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the cruise industry.

RELATED: Court blocks order lifting CDC virus rules on cruise ships

Carnival Cruise Line is requiring 95% of its passengers to be vaccinated against COVID as well as 100% of its crew. Royal Caribbean is allowing more unvaccinated passengers since there are a lot of families with children who are not able to get the vaccine yet.

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CDC officials are on the ship to check out new changes and health protocols. The CDC requires the test cruises to show how the ship keeps passengers safe from COVID.

RELATED: 6 people test positive for COVID-19 after Caribbean cruise

Last week, Royal Caribbean reported that six passengers on Adventure of the Seas tested positive for COVID -- Four vaccinated adults and two unvaccinated children. The ship departed Nassau the weekend before. The four vaccinated adults were not traveling together and three were asymptomatic while one had mild symptoms. The two children were asymptomatic, the cruise line said. All are American citizens.

Independence of the Seas will depart Galveston for its first paid cruise on Aug. 15.