Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Surviving #Yachtnik — Inside Seychelles ‘Luxury’ Trip Scandal & The History Of Its Origin

Seychelles , tourist scams , Travel Scam , yacht week east africa
Nasha Smith Oct 4, 2022

As a young professional, Tyler M* was an avid traveler. But there were certain experiences that she never imagined would be accessible to her. So when she came across an Instagram post from a company called Yacht’Nik in July 2021 promoting a decadent excursion to Seychelles, an East African archipelago of islands tucked away in the Indian Ocean, it seemed— as the well-worn adage goes— too good to be true.

“I never thought I would be on a luxury accommodation trip before the age of 30,” Tyler explained on a phone call with Travel Noire. “I never thought that was attainable to me. So when somebody dangles that in your face, like, “you can go to Seychelles, Africa, for seven days, and you’ll be with beautiful people in an exotic place?” I was like, “oh my God, this is a trip of a lifetime!”

Yacht’Nik bills itself as “a floating festival that travels to destinations showcasing the African diaspora combining luxury yachts, island parties, and cultural immersion.” According to owner Jeremy Moore, it’s a classier and more professional version of Atlanta’s iconic annual spring break street party typically attended by students from historically black colleges. When Moore spoke to Travel Noire about the luxury sailing experience in June 2021, shortly after its maiden voyage to Split, Croatia, the major selling point was the all-inclusive aspect in a bid to make the event as hassle-free as possible for attendees.

“Usually, with the typical Yacht Week experience, you’re coming out of pocket all the time, but I wanted to make this as simplistic for us as possible,” Moore said at the time.

How it began:

Tyler went down the rabbit hole of information on Yacht’Nik’s Instagram page, which advertised the African Diaspora route for two dates: September 10 to 17th, 2022, and September 17 to 24th, 2022. At just over $3,000 on average, the all-inclusive getaway promised luxury yachts, accommodation for seven days, a professional skipper, a food package with a hostess that included six breakfasts, six lunches and two dinners, a drinks and bottles packages with a hostess, transfers to and from airports, headline DJs, a gift bag, professional photography and videography, and an all-access pass to exclusive Yachtnik events among a robust slew of amenities. Flights, gratuities, alcohol at events, and travel insurance would incur a separate cost, according to a now-deleted Instagram graphic posted by Yacht’Nik.

What happened next:

She was sold. Tyler put down a 10% deposit on September 21, 2021. The rest of the installments were due in November 2021, January 2022, and August 2022.

“It became so big to me,” she said of the impending voyage. “I centered my life around it. I spent a year planning for this trip.”

A couple of months later, in November 2021, one of Shameka Jennings’ girlfriends asked if she would be interested in joining Yacht’Nik’s sailing trip to Seychelles. The yacht needed just one more person to meet the minimum passenger quota. After perusing Yacht’Nik’s social media platforms and website, Jennings was also convinced that this was “a trip of a lifetime and an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.”

She paid her $300 deposit the next day and received a rough outline of the week’s itinerary. Communication slowed down for a few months, but by Spring 2022, there were signs of life. The event organizers created a GroupMe for the Seychelles trip to keep participants updated. In a self-penned article posted to Medium, Jennings wrote,

“This was exciting because that meant this was real. I’m going to Africa for the first time, and I’m spending the week on a yacht!”

Lack of communication:

But the flow of information petered out again. By late Summer 2022, Jennings grew concerned about the lack of communication this close to the trip. As an events planner, she suspected this was, at best, poorly organized or, at worst, the beginnings of something more sinister. Moore did not confirm essential details like the route and itinerary. A week before Labor Day, less than a month before they were to set sail, Moore finally provided the group with the yacht assignments and confirmations needed to complete Seychelles’ travel authorization process. But Jennings’ professional instincts took over, and she noticed what she calls her first “red flag.” The yacht information contained a small note indicating they were not confirmed but on hold. Jennings called the company Dream Yacht Charter directly.

“They just told me that there was a hold on the boat for four days ending on September 4, which by my math means he did not make the reservation until September 1,” she shared. “And even if that, he didn’t put the money on it because that’s why it was a hold and not an actual confirmed reservation.”

But there was still time to pay. Text messages purported to be between Jennings and Moore show that Moore claimed the boats were under “a different unique identifier for the group.” After the holiday, Jennings called the yacht company again and learned that the unpaid boats were released to the public. She again reached out to Moore, who assured her everything would be fine. With flights into Mahé, Seychelles already secured, Jennings started making contingency plans with the other voyagers. They found an Airbnb and a private chef in case things went awry but hoped for the best. Moore provided yet another confirmation, but this time for bareboat charters, where crews and other provisions are not part of the agreement.

A nightmare from the start:

Jennings and her crew arrived a day before they were to set sail on the 17th. However, they were told that airport transfers were only available to those who arrived on the same day. In another twist, guests were now expected to board their boats on the palm-filled island of Praslin, which necessitated a 75-minute water taxi. When pressed by passengers about having to purchase additional tickets for water taxis, a cost covered by the all-inclusive package, Moore reportedly claimed that these taxis were different.

Things started to go south:

One of the first things that Tyler noticed when she got to Praslin was that catamarans had replaced the luxury yachts. And there were even more tweaks to their all-inclusive package, including no sign of the promised hostess to cook meals. They were able to find one through a recommendation from week one passengers.

“On vacation we were going to the store to buy groceries,” Tyler recalled. “We had to pay for the groceries out of pocket. We had to pay for the chef out of pocket. There was no welcome dinner. Jeremy said that the best DJ in Seychelles was at the raft party. He found a random person off the street who could DJ that day. There was no headline DJ. We were given a sheet but no blanket and two towels for the entire seven days.”

 

Barely anything was included as promised:

The premium drinks package was also questionable.

“Jeremy was gifted a free tour to the rum distillery,” added Tyler. “And then he was provided free rum from that distillery to replenish our boats. That is not a premium drink package. The bottles of rum he gave us were $24 a bottle. And he only gave us six bottles per boat. There were at least 12 people on two of those boats.”

There was reportedly no wi-fi or professional photography. The gift bag consisted of a mug, luggage tag, and wristband to access what Jennings termed “imaginary Yacht’Nik events.” The group was hosted for dinner by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Board. But multiple passengers from the trip confirmed that the other events were not exclusive but open to the public. This included a rum tour, a tortoise sanctuary visit, two nature walks, and a bar outing.

“All of these visits we did—the rum distillery, the tortoise visits—these are all free visits that you don’t have to make reservations for,” Tyler said. “These are all free. You don’t pay for them. These were not exclusive events.”

Now it’s a safety issue:

According to Jennings, Moore didn’t liaise with the authorities to have the boats docked, so they dropped anchor in the Indian Ocean. The group traveled to land via dinghies in choppy waters during the Monsoon season. The islands also have laws governing sailing after 6 pm as it starts to get pitch black. This became an issue when Moore invited the group to a club he claimed he rented out solely for Yacht’Nik attendees stationed on the other side of the island. Only one experienced skipper was willing to take the risk in the inky darkness. It is now also unclear if the skippers were fairly compensated.

“The skippers were supposed to get at least $2,000,” said Tyler. “Jeremy only gave them $1,000. Three hundred of those dollars was a tip that we gave them. Jeremy told us it’s a mandatory gratuity for your skipper, so you have to give me this money, or there’s going to be no skipper on your boat. So he made us send him money for the skipper, saying it was a tip. But that money was actually the base pay as a skipper.”

Total costs:

The final tally of extra costs is still coming in. Tyler has calculated at least $6000 spent, and Jennings is out an additional $4000 to $5000. Both estimate that Moore collected $250,000 to $300,000 in payments from passengers ahead of the trip. With so many amenities not provided, there are questions surrounding how he allocated this money.

Preying on Black Women

Another passenger, M*, was celebrating her birthday on the Seychelles trip with a friend. She has already started a dispute with her credit card company for the much-maligned trip. But ultimately, she wants to see Moore punished for his allegedly dishonest practices, mainly because he is “not remorseful.”

“I absolutely believe that Jeremy preys on Black women because if he is marketing these experiences to Black people, we know that the people who will typically go on these trips more than anything are women. If you know your audience, then you’re taking advantage of your audience.”

Departure troubles:

Despite the litany of broken promises and untruths, one incident trumps all for M. On the final day in Seychelles, the boats docked in Praslin instead of Mahé where the trip participants were flying out.

“According to Jeremy, we had to dock in Praslin,” revealed M. “According to the skippers, Dream Yacht Charter has a dock in Mahé. We absolutely could have docked in Mahé.

There were no firm plans on the schedule, so some people stayed on the boats, and others decided to catch the ferry to Mahé early and stay overnight at hotels near the airport. M opted to remain on the boat until she was due to leave on Saturday.

“I was at a point where I was like, I’m not spending more money. I’m not getting a hotel room. I paid for this yacht for seven days. I’m gonna sleep on this yacht for seven days.”

But Moore left on a 4:30 pm ferry that Friday, despite attendees still occupying the boats. Moore had previously informed the group that he had secured a villa for the last day for those who needed a place to rest or shower while waiting to leave. He booked the villa from Friday night. Early on Saturday morning, after arriving in Mahé ahead of a 10 pm flight, M and her companions made plans to drop their bags off at the villa and explore a bit. But check out was at 10 am that morning. The group remained on the dock with their luggage, frantically trying to book hotels or storage, but they were fully booked. Curious eyes probed them. A few men approached. During that time, they were aware of the optics of appearing lost in a foreign country, especially as a group of young women. They eventually found refuge at a Hilton hotel offering day passes, but for M, that was the last straw.

“I really genuinely felt like Jeremy put my life in danger,” said M. “And I will never forgive him for that.”

A history of issues:

One traveler DD told Travel Noire how this is not the first time Moore has been called out for not delivering on what his guests paid for:

“I heard stories dating back to 2019 of this man scamming people during these “trips.” Owing his former business partner’s money- you name it. He has rebranded his brand as ‘Yachtnik’ but we all remember his old brand ‘Sky Residents’ that was under fire for not delivering on food, transportation and safety during his prior Sky Residents trips to St. Marteen, Dubai, and the Bahamas.”

”I immediately warned all the women I knew to never join one of his trips, I just wish I could’ve warned everyone sooner of these scams. Dirty sheets? Damaged mattress? Truly a nightmare. Seeing this outrage over the Seychelles trip really is triggering especially when no remorse is shown from Jeremy.”

Want to read up on all of the Yachtnik accounts:

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Jennings’ account of the Yacht’Nik Seychelles experience on Medium. 

Also, read a traveler’s story online here for more information.

Editorial note: Jeremy Moore declined to comment for this story.

*Initials were used for privacy.

 

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