At 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, lots of people had their sights set on Nantucket as the Steamship Authority — the transit operator that links the islands to mainland Massachusetts — opened its online ferry reservations for summer 2022.
Just as reservations opened at 5 a.m., thousands of summer daydreamers swarmed the Steamship Authority website, hoping to secure a vehicle crossing booking. Many were greeted with a less-than-encouraging notification: “Hang on tight, you’re almost on board ... you are 2155th in line!”
Steamship Authority communications director Sean Driscoll confirmed that was true — more than 2,000 people tried to book their summer 2022 car ferry reservations just as online registration opened Tuesday morning. Although he noted that some people use multiple devices to try and secure bookings, “so one person may have been in line multiple times,” Driscoll said.
By Tuesday afternoon, Driscoll said the Steamship Authority had processed 8,056 transactions — the most in recent memory. In 2021, the transit operator recorded 5,030 bookings on opening day, and 5,069 the year before that.
“We certainly had a busier opening day than we did in past years,” Driscoll said. “Still, it’s nothing compared to the Vineyard.”
Opening day for online ferry reservations for Martha’s Vineyard begin next Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 5 a.m. Driscoll said that the Steamship Authority processed more than 16,000 transactions for the Vineyard on opening day last year. He noted that more trips run to and from the Vineyard, which takes 45 minutes from its Woods Hole terminal. The trip to and from Nantucket takes 2 hours and 15 minutes from Hyannis.
Driscoll said the Steamship Authority implements a “virtual waiting room” to manage online traffic and prevent a website crash on opening days.
“That was an expected response coming to the site this morning,” he said. “We let X number of people get through, and we see how the site’s responding, and then we widen the pipe a little ... when traffic drops, we can shut off [the virtual room].” Driscoll added that it’s the second year the authority implemented the virtual waiting room strategy. “It was very successful last year, so we’re repeating it,” he said.
A visit to the Steamship Authority’s website Tuesday afternoon showed that users could still book their summer 2022 car reservations, but many dates already were filled. The authority lists Nantucket’s high season between May 17 and Sept. 14, where round-trip prices for cars range from $492 to $600, depending on the size of the vehicle and the day of the week. Users also can book up to Oct. 19, when round-trip fares drop slightly.
The Nantucket general opening was the first of three notable dates: General online opening for Martha’s Vineyard ferry reservations begins Jan. 25, and general openings by telephone for both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard ferries begin on Feb. 1. The Steamship Authority notes users “must have valid Islander Preferred Excursion or Islander Preferred profiles.”
Travel Tip Tuesday: At 5 a.m. today, our schedule opened for travel from May 17, 2022 - October 19, 2022 on the Nantucket route. Time to book your next summer vacation - buy your vehicle reservations now at https://t.co/vAqSWZYomq. pic.twitter.com/f95oBygrWl— Steamship Authority (@SteamshipMA) January 18, 2022