After postponement, Steamship Authority announces new dates for summer reservations


Reservations begin Feb. 8.

A Steamship Authority ferry, as pictured in 2018. David L. Ryan

Vacationers to the islands can begin making ferry plans this week when the Steamship Authority opens its reservation system after a two-week delay due to technical problems.

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The Steamship Authority, the largest ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, postponed its opening dates for summer vehicle reservations last month after experiencing “technical challenges.”

Online reservations for the general public were supposed to begin Jan. 23 at 5 a.m. for Nantucket and Jan. 30 at 5 a.m. for Martha’s Vineyard. The agency delayed the dates after islanders faced technical issues while booking during the Headstart program on Jan. 18. The Headstart program allows island residents to book travel ahead of the general public.

After two weeks of investigating and testing the reservation system by the Authority’s IT team and multiple external vendors, the Steamship Authority announced the following new opening dates for summer reservations on Friday:

  • Feb. 8 at 8 a.m. to Nantucket
  • Feb. 14 at 8 a.m. to Martha’s Vineyard

On those dates, reservations may be booked for travel between May 15 and Oct. 20. The new opening dates have later start times — 8 a.m. instead of 5 a.m. — so customers will receive “enhanced support services,” according to the agency.

“Following more than two weeks of extensive troubleshooting by our IT team and external vendors, we feel confident our systems are prepared to provide a smooth experience for our customers during the reservation opening days,” said Robert B. Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority, in a statement. “I know this delay has been an inconvenience for our customers, and I thank them for their patience during this process.”

The issues came from an “underperformance of a cloud-based web server, as well as unexpected communications failures of on-premises web servers,” according to the Authority, and configuration changes stabilized the system.

There will be a virtual waiting room on both opening days and the agency will manage the number of users allowed on the website. Customers will be able to see their “place” in line as well as the wait time.

Travelers can make summer reservations by phone and in person at terminals beginning Feb. 20 at 8 a.m.

The agency faced technical difficulties and frustrated customers last year on opening day of summer reservations.