SSA summer reservations go live 

The SSA general opening for Nantucket kicked off. —MV Times

Updated Feb. 14

The Steamship Authority kicked off the opening for summer reservations on the Martha’s Vineyard route on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and so far it’s been relatively smooth sailing — compared at least with earlier rollouts of Steamship reservations. 

The opening began at 8 am on Wednesday, and while some customers complained about the long wait time — which was over an hour at times — the reservation system saw few issues. 

Others commended the SSA, saying the reservation process went smoothly. 

Driscoll said the SSA would release a midafternoon summary of the Vineyard’s general opening, after The Times’ print deadline. 

The Steamship rolled out the Nantucket route reservations last week, also with fewer issues compared with previous years. 

Still, customers then did complain online about the long wait times. Steamship officials say the peak average wait time was around 2 hours and 20 minutes. “Wait times of more than an hour were fairly common due to the high demand,” SSA communications director Sean Driscoll said. 

Some customers also complained about not being able to make reservations past May, but this was due to a combination of a lag in the system and user error, according to Driscoll. Some customers were not selecting their route before choosing their dates, and the Vineyard route hasn’t opened yet.

Prior to the Vineyard summer reservations opening, the Steamship issued a statement saying they were prepared for the day. 

“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,” SSA general manager Robert B. Davis said. “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.”

According to a press release, around 7,800 automobile reservation transactions and $4.2 million in revenue were made by 3 pm on the Nantucket opening day. The SSA had completed 9,153 reservations and 9,499 reservations by the end of the first days in 2023 and 2022, respectively. 

The release states the SSA managed the number of users on the website through a virtual waiting room to ensure the system operated at an “optimal level.” At its peak shortly before 9 am, the waiting room had an average of more than 10,000 active sessions per minute, although the release states this number is higher than the actual number of people, since some individuals used multiple devices in an attempt to access the website. 

The SSA had delayed rolling out its summer reservation days for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard after experiencing technical issues with the Headstart reservation. An internal investigation of the SSA’s systems followed before the new dates were released a couple of weeks later. 

Some Vineyard representatives to the SSA expressed frustrations during a recent meeting on how reservations had gone before the Nantucket reservations went live, calling for more robust resources allocated toward technology.

The reservation period has gone more smoothly than last year, when the SSA experienced several issues with its website on the general opening days for both routes.