The Steamship Authority saw a busy morning on opening day for online summer ferry reservations Tuesday, with transaction and sales numbers nearly matching last year’s first-day count by lunchtime.

And there were no website crashes this year.

Traditionally a hectic day at the ferry service, the general internet opening for summer ticket sales marks the first opportunity for SSA customers to book reservations between May 19 and Oct. 18, 2021. In recent years, the open day frenzy has caused the online reservation system to freeze up and crash, including in 2018 and 2020, irking customers and causing headaches across the Vineyard Sound.

But SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said everything was smooth sailing on Tuesday, as thousands of customers booked reservations for the summer season.

According to Mr. Driscoll, more than 12,000 transactions and $3.1 million in sales were recorded by 10:30 a.m. The total for the entirety of opening day last year saw $3.3 million in sales and 13,853 transactions.

“As of 10:30 a.m. we were pretty close to the day’s total for last year,” Mr. Driscoll said. “Generally speaking, we had a good morning on the Vineyard route.”

Most of the transactions occur between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., according to Mr. Driscoll, with sales dropping off precipitously after the initial rush. With that in mind, he said it was unlikely that 2021 opening day would shoot past 2020 numbers, but he expected them to be at least on par, if not better.

The boat line also raised fares for automobiles and passengers this year, including $15 one-way fare increases for summer weekend vehicle trips.

“It’s not going to be triple what it was last year,” Mr. Driscoll said. “It might be [a little more], but it’s going to be pretty close regardless.”

By the close of business Tuesday, the Steamship Authority had in fact surpassed 2019's numbers, processing 14,997 transactions that represented more than $3.8 million in revenue, according to a press release Mr. Driscoll put out Wednesday morning. 

“The results of our general internet openings are certainly a bellwether for a strong summer season on both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard,” general manager Bob Davis said in the release.

The SSA has seen its share of financial pain from the pandemic, particularly with passenger traffic. After all travel on ferries crashed hard in April during statewide stay-at-home orders, vehicle traffic later rebounded to pre-pandemic levels and has stayed that way. The SSA has budgeted for passenger traffic to run at 90 per cent normal levels throughout 2021.

Mr. Driscoll said traffic levels were relatively flat at the end of 2020 and performed as expected during the Christmas holiday.

He also said the ferry’s much-maligned internet reservation system had been improved and performed well Tuesday morning. Upon opening at 5 a.m., the SSA had 1,500 users in its waiting room and as many as 3,500 at its peak, with another 1,500 using the system. No issues were reported report with the software.

“It did exactly what it was supposed to do,” Mr. Driscoll said.

The general opening for summer ferry reservations continues through Jan. 25, when travelers will be able to make reservations by phone. Headstart reservations for Island-based customers began two weeks ago.

Mr. Driscoll said there was still availability for some peak summer weekends through internet bookings.

“This is always a good day, but it’s far from the only day that people can find reservations,” he said.