It was calm seas for the Steamship Authority Wednesday when the opening of summer vehicle reservations went off without a hitch. 

The ferry line booked about 25,020 vehicle reservations and did not run into any of the technical issues that have plagued opening day for the general public in the past. The number of bookings is slightly higher than the previous two years and equates to more than $6.7 million in revenue, according to an SSA news release.

The uneventful opening was a welcome change for Steamship officials and tourists accustomed to opening day glitches. 

In an interview with the Gazette, Michelle Fitzgerald said she got on the website shortly after 8 a.m., and breezed through in less than half an hour.

“I was pleasantly surprised today,” said Ms. Fitzgerald, a Wareham resident who has been summering on the Island for years and booked a August vacation Wednesday. “[In the past,] it would freeze up or you’d get booted off. There was none of that this year.”

Opening day for vehicle reservations is something like the Steamship Authority’s Black Friday. Though Islanders get an early crack at vehicle reservations from May through October, tourists line up on opening day to score prized summer weekends. 

The crush of customers has caused the website to falter in the past and the ferry line this year implemented a virtual waiting room that managed the number of people allowed onto the website at once.

This created a queue that let people know the approximate wait times before they could enter the site and book a reservation. 

This year’s peak wait time of about two hours and fifteen minutes came around 8:40 a.m., when 21,300 people queued up. A Gazette reporter logged on around 8:30 a.m. and the wait time was about two hours. 

“It went quite well,” said James Malkin, the Vineyard representative on the Steamship’s board of governors. 

An outspoken critic of the Steamship Authority’s information technology systems, Mr. Malkin said he saw no problems Wednesday and the only complaint he heard was about the sometimes long waits for customers.

But with the sheer number of customers looking to come to the Island, he couldn’t see a way around that.

“People will complain about the waiting time, but it’s because everybody gets there at the same time,’ he said. “I don’t know another way [to do it].”

There has been talk about setting different opening dates for different times of the summer, he said, but none seemed appropriate for the travelers who want to get their vacations squared away. 

The Steamship Authority was supposed to open the Vineyard’s summer vehicle reservations two weeks ago, but the reservation system struggled when early reservations for Islanders opened up in January. The ferry line conducted an investigation into the issue and found problems with underperforming servers. 

Changes were made to the servers and, after tests, the summer vehicle reservations opened for the Nantucket route last week. The SSA said 8,389 transactions were booked, sans glitches and crashes.  

That gave Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis confidence heading into the Vineyard route, which had more than three times the number of reservations on opening day. 

“Although delaying the general openings was unfortunate, we ultimately were able to provide a better experience for our customers,” he said last week. 

The Vineyard route opening day reservations were just slightly higher than years past. The Steamship Authority processed 24,609 reservations in 2023 and 24,508 reservations in 2022. Nantucket’s reservations were below previous years.

Updated with full opening day figures from the Steamship Authority.