Travelers Sue Creator Of Black Yacht Week Over Fyre-Fest Like Experience
By DeAnna Taylor
If you are an avid Black traveler, you have likely heard of the Facebook group Black Travel Movement. The group, created to share the Black travel experience through personal photos, also hosts large group trips around the world.
The founder of the group, Reginald “Reggie” Cummings, made the announcement early last year that he would be putting together the first Black Yacht Week in 2019.
According to the company’s website, he said, “Why should Europeans have all the fun? Picture if you will 15-25 yachts filled with beautiful black, brown, and beige people sailing and partying around the beautiful beaches of the British Virgin Islands.”
The trip was said to be the answer to the already established yacht week that takes place each year in Croatia. Cummings promised travelers a luxury experience complete with a gourmet chef and personal skipper at a price of $2,950 to $3,350.
Well, it looks like things didn’t quite go the way they were advertised.
This week a federal lawsuit was filed against Cummings in the amount of $550,000 for failure to pay the Maryland-based yacht company that was contracted to provide more than a dozen luxury vessels for the experience. In addition to the lawsuit, several of the 230 passengers who signed up, have also filed complaints, stating that the experience was a disgusting nightmare and none of the promises made were delivered.
In his defense, Cummings issued the following statement in regards to his failure to pay the half-a-million-dollar bill:
“The yacht company failed to deliver to us what we promised our customers,” he says. “My plan is to get this resolved. Some [customers] have been reimbursed, some have pending litigation, but I expect this to be resolved in 30 to 45 days.”
The yacht company, Dream Yacht America, argued that Cummings was very unresponsive in his communication with the company leading up to the trip. Because of this, they delivered the best they could, with the little information they were provided.
Passenger Jewel Pearson is among those upset with the “luxury experience.”
“From beginning to end the experience was an example of horrible communication and customer service, unprofessionalism and misrepresentation,” she wrote in a complaint to the North Carolina attorney general’s office. “The trip itinerary that had been communicated to all attendees at purchase/registration was changed the night before the excursion began and the changes removed visits to all of the famous sites/attractions that were obviously the initial selling point and attendees and the Charter Company were left trying to figure it out and salvage a trip with no direction from BTM.”
Trip goers were promised gourmet meals each day by a private chef. In the complaint, it was revealed that the gourmet meals were reduced to hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and rotting fruit cups.
“We had rotting fruit in bowls for display and flies everywhere. It was purely disgusting…we were left to eat out onshore most of the time,” said Gionna Adams. “I’m embarrassed to say I paid this much for the trip.”
“We had to clean the yacht daily, but we had it better than others who had no food, ate hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, their fridge went out, AC went out. Yet, Reggie’s yacht had food, drinks, lobster daily,” said Pearson, who is seeking reimbursement. She lodged similar complaints to the attorney general.
Once the boats returned to shore, they were met by the Royal Virgin Islands police force who had been notified of Cummings failure to pay for the yachts.
Although he wasn’t arrested, Cummings did sign a confession of judgment admitting he owed over $550,000 and that document was filed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
News of this horrific experience has spread to other Black-Owned travel groups, including Nomadness Travel Tribe headed by Evita Robinson.
“It’s infuriating because so many of us laid the foundation to make sure we are legitimized in an industry that does not pay attention to us,” Robinson said. “We shatter the stereotypes that are against us and to hear about this, it’s infuriating.”
Cummings has a Maryland-based attorney who is seeking to vacate the $550,000 judgment against him. Their argument is that Cummings was coerced into signing the contract with the company and any complaints from customers fall on the yacht company, not him.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.