Steamship announces summer reservation dates

Summer reservations for the Steamship Authority's Vineyard route went live Wednesday. —MV Times

Updated, Feb 2.

The Steamship Authority has announced new dates for summer vehicle reservations, following technical issues the last two weeks.

The steamship announced the new dates in a press release issued on Friday.

The general public can start booking summer reservations on the Nantucket route at 8 am Thursday, February 8. Booking for summer reservations on the Martha’s Vineyard route will open at 8 am Wednesday, February 14. Both openings will cover travel from May 15 through October 20.

The Steamship says that new opening times and dates were scheduled following an investigation into technical challenges experienced on January 18 during the Head Start summer reservation openings for Island residents. The review was conducted by the Authority’s IT team, along with the assistance of multiple external vendors.

The Steamship said that errors that occurred during the Head Start openings were traced to an “underperformance of a cloud-based web server, as well as unexpected communication failures of on-premises web servers,” the release stated. The Steamship says that following changes to these servers and other modifications, the system was stable through several days of testing.

“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 General Manager Robert Davis said 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 Steamship had originally planned to open the general summer reservation season for the Vineyard route on Jan. 19, but officials said they would delay the rollout while the glitches were addressed. 

The ferry line has struggled over the past several years on the day when thousands of travelers try to make their summer plans, and overload the system. 

Prior to Friday’s announcement, Vineyard representative to the Steamship board James Malkin said that the issues surrounding the reservation system underscore the poor IT infrastructure the ferry line has relied on, which was built in-house.

“There are a myriad of technical issues,” Malkin said. “The Steamship’s IT infrastructure has been held together through hard work of individuals, but it is badly in need of reassembling and rebooting.” 

Malkin said that a new system should be built by an outside company with expertise in the appropriate applications. 

“We’re not a technology company, we’re a ferry line,” Malkin said.

This year, the tech problems started with the Head Start program in early January, which is an opportunity for locals to make vehicle reservations before visitors. Users then reported glitches and long wait times, echoing issues of previous years.

The openings of summer vehicle reservations for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard had been scheduled for Jan. 23 and Jan. 30, respectively. 

SSA general manager Robert B. Davis said in a statement last month that they were investigating issues surrounding the technical problems. Davis said the delay will allow the SSA to conduct more testing, and work out technical problems that were present during the Head Start rollout.

“Each year our IT team takes preparing for these days very seriously, and they have been hard at work for several weeks, performing multiple load tests of our reservation process, and testing our waiting-room product,” Davis is quoted in a release sent out by the Steamship Authority Friday afternoon. “That preparation did not indicate there would be any issues for this week’s reservation openings.

“I want to be completely sure we have identified and addressed any remaining issues before we make the decision to open reservations,” Davis continued. “These reservation opening days are the start of our customers’ summertime journey with us, and we always strive to make it as smooth a process as possible. We look forward to announcing new opening dates to our customers as soon as possible.” 

During the Headstart rollout earlier this month, the Steamship did respond to complaints about tech issues with the reservation system.

“Upon further investigation and review, the Steamship Authority’s IT team, along with the assistance of system vendors, have determined today’s booking issues were related to connectivity issues on a subset of our web servers,” the update read. “We believe the issue has been resolved, and we believe the booking process is now running normally. Additional testing of the servers will be done overnight, and senior management will review the results Friday and determine what additional steps, if any, need to be taken prior to the general openings.”

The following day, the SSA announced the delay of summer reservations. 


  1. Many people have said this and I will simply join the chorus in saying that if the Steamship Authority were a privately run company, the General Manager, as CEO, would have been canned unceremoniously a loooooooong time ago. The board is at fault for this, essentially. They renew his contract. But not only did they do that but two years ago and give him a big raise, they did not require any goals to be met for contract renewal.

    This guy is complete failure. Look at his record! For how long can we keep our eyes closed! I have zero idea of what keeps this man employed. Thank goodness I don’t own actually stock in this company, Elon Musk would run it much better and we all know the market value of X (formerly known as Twitter) today (and I *like* Elon Musk on some days).

    • “This guy is complete failure. Look at his record! For how long can we keep our eyes closed!”
      As much of a failure as the people who voted for for County Commissioner?
      Do you see failure when you look in the mirror?

  2. Mr. Malkin’s excuses are unacceptable. THE SSA in its entirety is culpable. I lived on the island for 30 years ( have been gone for 20) and things were suspect back then. Of course their answer/solution will be to ask for yet more money. No accountability.No consequences. I’m going to GOOGLE Mr. Malkin as I admit I know nothing about him. Looking forward to an informative read.

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