One group of travelers unfortunately had the worst of the worst experiences when they trusted their business with a Black-centered travel companying.
According to WFMY News 2, about 250 Black travelers were sold a luxury yacht experience in the British Virginia Islands back in June as part of Black Yacht Week. These folks spent thousands of dollars and it was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime.
However, according to Jewel Pearson from Charlotte, this was not the case.
“My thought process is we’ve been bamboozled basically,” Pearson said.
The website to the North Carolina-based travel company Black Travel Movement promised their customers luxury yachts, stops to multiple islands, personalized all-inclusive meals and drinks, plus more on their website. Travelers could pick between two types of yachts, including a premium crewed yacht for $2950 and the super premium yacht for $3350.
However, before the yachts were to set sail, Pearson says the owner sent an email that changed the schedule, skipping many of the attractions.
“The itinerary included was basically barhopping. No one wants to pay to go to the British Virgin Islands to bar hop.” Pearson said.
No employee from the company greeted customers at the airport, according to Pearson, so her group had to find their own way to where the boats were docked. Pearson explained that only after two taxi rides and two ferry rides were they able to get to the boats. Then when they arrived, Pearson said the group was assigned the wrong kind of boat.
“We had paid for a super premium,” Pearson said.
Pearson says her group even had to go to the store to buy food for the boat because it wasn’t adequately stocked. “We were frustrated. The meals weren’t what they were supposed to be,” said Pearson. “We had all given meal preferences.”
Tiffini Wilson of Chicago also went on the trip and she said her biggest issue was the food, saying that the chef used leftover food from another charter. “I didn’t pay $3,350 to eat somebody’s leftover groceries when I filled out a menu that consisted of veal, lamb, seafood, chicken, and beef,” Wilson said.
Nenita Davis from Maryland also had a terrible experience. “It was just poorly planned, poorly organized,” said Davis. “There was no communication once we were there, and we were pretty much fending for ourselves.”
She explained that she didn’t get the boat she paid for and the boat she was on had mechanical problems. The food, of course, was subpar, according to Davis. She said things were so tragic that she left the boat as soon as she could and was relegated to staying one night at another island before heading home.
Pearson said she tried to address the issues with Cummings while she was on the trip, but she said he didn’t take anything seriously.
It wasn’t until yacht week ended, that Cummings sent an email apologizing and admitting that the experience was not as promised. He claimed refunds were coming.
“So we see this four or five-page email and we’re like, ‘Ok well he knows that he messed up’,” Wilson said. “He knows that it kind of turned out to be Fyre Fest at sea.”
However, according to everyone contacted by WFMY News 2, the customers have yet to receive their refunds. Folks had to end up filing fraud claims with their banks and credit card companies. Wilson and Pearson are also moderators for a Facebook page called “Black Travel Movement -Trip/Vacation Reviews.” Pearson said she started the page while still on the trip after learning other people were having bad experiences.
“We said we have to be organized and stay in touch with each other to figure out what the next steps were,” Pearson said.
Pearson and Wilson are two of the 17 patrons who’ve filed complaints with the state Attorney General’s Office. Sixteen complaints are listed on the Better Business Bureau’s website about alleged incidents dating back to 2016.
When Cummings was reached for a statement, he insisted that issuing refunds is a complex task being held up by litigation with the yacht company, Dream Yacht Charter.