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Vacation Billed as Luxury Yacht Experience Goes Awry

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 9/20/2019 Patrick Clarke
a small boat in a body of water: Sunset at Marina in Tortola © alexeys / iStock / Getty Images Plus Sunset at Marina in Tortola

More than a dozen travelers have filed formal complaints with North Carolina State Attorney General Josh Stein's office following a luxury yacht vacation in the British Virgin Islands gone wrong this past June.

In a story reminiscent of 2017's ill-fated Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, 58-year-old Reggie Cummings, founder of Black Travel Movement—dubbed the "largest and fastest growing online black travel community"—promised customers the "vacation of a lifetime" during "Black Yacht Week" in the Caribbean.

However, the reviews have been mostly negative.

Approximately 250 people paid thousands of dollars for the cruise, which was advertised as a VIP experience featuring professional service and gourmet meals, among other perks. Instead, travelers complained of poor conditions, rude staff and mediocre meals.

"We actually had a leak on our boat," customer Karen Everett told ABC11. "Some of the boats had mechanical issues. One of the boats, the air conditioning went out, so they were stuck with no AC, without lighting. Some people had no food. Some people had hot dogs or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Everett was one of many who paid $3,350 per person for a "super-premium crewed yacht."

"We were supposed to be treated royally with full VIP treatment," she added. "The yacht was supposed to be a year old. Most of that did not happen."

"I knew something wasn't right back in July 2018 when paying for the trip," Jewel Pearson told Good Morning America. "There were problems with the website and when I called, emailed or posted on the Facebook group about straightening out the account, the comment got deleted or Reggie wouldn't remember our previous correspondence."

Cummings has blamed Maryland-based Dream Yacht Charters for the debacle. The company filed a federal lawsuit against him for allegedly failing to pay the $550,000 bill to rent the yachts but he's countersuing, claiming that he's holding onto the money to refund unhappy customers.

The Attorney General's office will be looking into whether Black Travel Movement violated statutes prohibiting unfair and deceptive commercial practices.

Cummings told ABC11 that "the ($550,000) is sitting in an escrow account waiting for this issue to be resolved through mediation, or through the courts, or through whatever the process is," adding that litigation should be resolved within the next one to three months.

"This should be a lesson learned of travelers that just rely on using social media for 'multiple likes' or thousands of 'followers.' Just because a seller of travel has great presentation and thousands of followers on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to facilitate a great trip," Nadia Sparkle, owner and manager of Travel with Sparkle, told TravelPulse. "Do your research to make sure you are booking with a person who is qualified with proper credentials"

"I think travelers should do their diligence researching the travel advisor they are thinking about working with. Look for affiliations with travel associations such as ASTA, CLIA, IATA, etc," she added. "Travelers should seek references from other travelers that traveled with the business or agent in the past. Look at reviews and service feedbacks from other travelers that used the agent/agency."

A recent McAfee study found that one in five Americans have been scammed or nearly scammed when booking summer travel. In July, a Louisiana woman received a 15-year sentence with six years suspended after she admitted to scamming nearly 100 travelers out over $80,000.

Related video: This gold plated yacht will make your mouth water and your wallet cry [via Buzz60]


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