Following the Steamship Authority's latest website snafu on January 18 - when customers ran into a host of problems attempting to book "Headstart" reservations for the summer - the boat line took the extraordinary step of postponing the opening date for its general reservations.
For nearly two weeks, customers remained in limbo as the Steamship attempted to diagnose the tech issues and come up with a plan to avoid them moving forward. And last Friday, the Steamship announced that it had scheduled new online opening dates and times for its summer vehicle reservations.
The general public may start booking summer reservations on the Nantucket route at 8 a.m. this Thursday, February 8. Booking for summer reservations on the Martha’s Vineyard route will open at 8 a.m. next Wednesday, February 14. Both openings will cover travel from May 15, 2024, through October 20, 2024, for the respective island. The Steamship stated that the opening times on these days, which typically begin at 5 a.m., were changed to 8 a.m. to provide enhanced support services to customers.
The Steamship also disclosed additional details about its investigation into the "technical challenges" customers experienced as they attempted to book reservations last month. The review was conducted by the boat line's IT team, along with the assistance of multiple external vendors.
"The 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 Steamship stated in a press release. "Following configuration changes to these servers and other server modifications, the system performance was shown to be stable following several days of testing."
The Steamship is in the process of developing a new website - expected to launch this month - but it will not be live in time for the opening dates for general summer reservations.
“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 Steamship general manager Bob Davis. “I know this delay has been an inconvenience for our customers, and I thank them for their patience during this process.”
The Authority stated that it will continue to closely monitor and actively manage the number of users allowed on the website to ensure the system is "operating at an optimal level." That means it will once again employ a "virtual waiting room" on both opening days that allows customers to see their place in line and the approximate wait time until they can make a transaction.
Although summer automobile reservations will not be able to be made by phone during the online opening periods, the Authority’s reservation office will be available from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily should a customer need assistance with their login password or PIN. Following the online openings, customers will be able to make summer reservations via the phone and in person at terminals starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2024.