I'm (literally) just off the U.S. inaugural cruise of the MSC Orchestra. The Italian-owned MSC cruise line has a strong reputation for food, service and upscale ships. But from beginning to end, this sailing was plagued with problems.

The year-old ship was late arriving in Fort Lauderdale from its transatlantic voyage Jan. 2, the line’s U.S. president, Rick Sasso, told me. That delay, coupled with a crippling computer problem, left more than 2,000 passengers embarking on a two-day Bahamas cruise standing in line for 3-4 hours before they could board.

Once on the ship, passengers encountered a series of service problems. Though some staff was cheery and efficient, others seemed indifferent. Food service throughout the sailing was extremely slow, and several passengers said they received the wrong orders at dinner (the woman at the table next to mine twice ordered salmon and was brought overcooked mahi-mahi; one of my table mates ordered “sliced steak’’ medium rare but got well-done roast beef.

One passenger, Norma Varas of Miami, said her husband asked for a piece of bread from the buffet (where they had waited in line for two hours) and was told he already had one, and why did he need another?

Some passengers said their cabins were cleaned far later in the day than usual; one traveling with a non-romantic friend asked to have his bed converted from a king to two twins – something that never happened, he said. A group of would-be gamblers reportedly waited more than an hour for a croupier to come to the craps table after being told they would wait only a few minutes. Another passenger waited more than two hours for a maintenance person to unlock a jammed in-room safe.

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    Jane Wooldridge is the Miami Herald's award-winning travel editor and a genuine travel fanatic. Between her business and person…

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