What it was like to book summer Steamship Authority reservations for Nantucket on opening day


The average wait time peaked at about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

The Steamship Authority ferry arrived at Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard in 2021. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Thousands of travelers planning trips to Nantucket this summer flooded the Steamship Authority website on Thursday morning during opening day of summer vehicle reservations.

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Reservations opened at 8 a.m. for travel to Nantucket between May 15 and Oct. 20 after a two-week delay due to technical issues. The Martha’s Vineyard general opening will take place on Feb. 14 at 8 a.m.

By about 3 p.m., the Authority had processed 7,800 transactions — defined as either a one-way or a round-trip vehicle reservation — resulting in more than $4.2 million in revenue, according to the agency.

“Based on the system’s performance during Nantucket’s general opening, I feel confident in proceeding with the scheduled opening for Martha’s Vineyard reservations,” Robert B. Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority, said in a statement. “I’m thankful to our IT staff and our external vendors for their diligence in ensuring today’s reservation opening for Nantucket was a success. Although delaying the general openings was unfortunate, we ultimately were able to provide a better experience for our customers.”

The Authority said it “closely monitored and actively managed” the number of users allowed on the website. Customers were managed through a virtual waiting room where they could see both their place in line and wait time and didn’t need to refresh their browser.

At 8 a.m. the Nantucket Current posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it was 8,395th in line.

This reporter entered the online waiting room at 8:17 a.m. and was 11,173rd in line with “more than an hour wait.” I was able to begin booking at 10:29 a.m. after a 2 hour and 12 minute wait.

Just before 9 a.m., there were more than 10,000 active sessions per minute in the waiting room, according to the Authority, which noted that that number was likely higher than the number of people actually waiting due to folks using multiple devices.

The average wait time peaked just before 10:30 a.m. at about 2 hours and 20 minutes, according to the Authority.

Users took to the Steamship Authority’s Facebook page to comment about their experiences.

Amy Taylor Hille wrote, “Got both desired Saturdays in August but not our desired times. Signed up for waitlist which usually pans out as our trip gets closer. Thanks SSA & good luck to all those waiting.”

Bob Blair wrote, “With patience we were able to get the dates we wanted but had to be flexible with the times.”

Joanne Moldt wrote, “how is this better? i have never waited 2 hours to book only to find no july or august left and i logged on at 7:30. I always have gotten at least one way on the day i need and usually waitlist the other. people who rent homes mid island and beyond need to bring their cars. I have been coming to Nantucket for 40 years this is beyond frustrating.”

Lynne Mancovsky-Callinan wrote, “Went in at 7:30 right away in q number at 6000 how is that possible! This system continues to be epic fail. And how when just opened is there only 1/3 of tickets available.”

Less than a third of its vehicle space was available on Thursday morning after bulk freight and Head Start reservations for island residents, which happen prior to general public reservations, the agency warned travelers on social media on Wednesday night.

The Authority says its IT staff and external vendors will continue to “fine-tune certain aspects of the process” before the Martha’s Vineyard opening next week.

Travelers who aren’t able to book vehicle reservations for their desired travel dates can park in the agency’s lots in Hyannis and Falmouth, hop a free shuttle to the dock, travel without a car, and use public transportation on the islands once there, the Authority reminded customers in its social media post.

In 2023, the Authority processed 9,153 summer vehicle reservations during opening day and in 2022, a record-setting year, it processed 9,499 transactions.

Customers can begin making summer reservations via phone or in-person for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard on Feb. 20 at 8 a.m.