Another year, and another dismal performance by the Steamship Authority's website as reservations opened for the summer of 2024.
Customers attempting to book vehicle reservations on Thursday ran into a host of problems, including 504 error messages, non-working dropdown menus, and long queues in the virtual waiting room. It marked the third year in a row that the Steamship Authority's website has buckled under high demand, and its biggest test of the year - the general reservation opening for summer 2024 - is still to come next week.
"A complete nightmare," Cara Murphy told the Steamship in an online post on Thursday.
The boat line's "Headstart" program - which allows year-round island residents and seasonal homeowners who qualify for its "preferred program" to book reservations before the general public - officially began on Tuesday with relatively few problems. But the trouble began almost immediately Thursday morning as the Steamship opened up reservations more broadly by allowing those who qualify for the "Headstart" program to book up to five reservations in another person’s name for personal use. Three of those five reservations could be requested as a transferable reservation, which can be transferred to another individual at a later date. But many customers quickly discovered they were unable to do so.
"The system won't let me make a reservation, kicks me out and gives me an error message every time I try to place a reservation," Laura Fredericks posted on the Steamship's Instagram page.
By 8:30 a.m., the boat line had to acknowledge the problem and stated "our IT team is hard at work trying to diagnose the issues."
After posting several updates throughout the day on social media, the Steamship announced at 5 p.m. that after "investigation and review" it had identified the root cause of the problems: "Today's booking issues were related to connectivity issues on a subset of our web servers. We believe the issue has been resolved. 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. We expect to have updated information at that time. We apologize to our Head Start customers for the inconvenience today and thank them for their patience."
While the Steamship is preparing to launch a $2.9 million new website next month, it did not arrive in time to replace its outdated and overburdened current site. Even when the new website goes live in February, the Steamship is still looking at another significant and multi-million-dollar project: overhauling the online reservation system that feeds into the web site.
See some of the error messages and other screens users ran into today: