How Does the Steamship Authority Work?

Matha's Vineyard Steamship Authority Ferry

For those of you that have been to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, you know that the process of bringing a vehicle along on your Vineyard vacation can be very trying if you don’t know the process!  Our island population goes from around 15,000 year round residents to 100,000 August visitors.  You really do need to take a ferry to and from the island.  It is a 45 minute ferry ride from the Cape.

Oak Bluffs Beach Front Rental

Once you have booked your Vineyard vacation rental, you will need to work on making arrangements for getting here.  The Steamship Authority does not take reservations for the summer season until sometime in January.  This year they open reservations online and via mail on January 20th.  Mark your calendars!  They will open the phone lines up on January 27, 2009.

Sometimes it feels like you have won the lottery when you get just the right times for your reservations for your August vacation.   The process can seem unbearable much of the time but following are some tips that might help:

  • Go online to the Steamship Authority and sign up for your profile number and pin prior to making your reservation.
  • Go online as soon as you can on January 20, be patient as you may get bumped off the site due to high volume.
  • Book any time you can on the day of travel or as close to the day of travel and request to be wait listed for your preferred times.

You should know that the wait list system does seem to work out for most travelers that are reserving their tickets this far in advance.   The steamship has represented in the past that they do not completely book all of the boats so they will have some flexibility.  Things do shift around but you may not know for sure right up until travel time.  They do also have a day of sail number you can call to try to change your reservation while you are on the road.

I once had a customer call and book a house one Saturday in August, drive down and get right on the boat and arrive at my office to pay for their vacation home and pick up their key, all in the same day.  This is not the norm and I do not recommend you wait to see if this works but, please realize that some of the systems that may seem very flawed can work well in the end!

6 thoughts on “How Does the Steamship Authority Work?”

  1. I remember that ferry ride with my family and then years later with my college friends. Seemed much shorter with my friends :).

    I think we winged it in college and had to just go as passengers and get a cab on the other side.

    I’m sure my parents had the ferry tickets first, then booked our week at the hotel around that! Now it’s online – good to know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.