Shane for the most part your research about the cost of the French, Dutch and British islands is correct. As you can imagine each Caribbean island has its own personality and flavor so they are each different in their own way. We love the Caribbean because of the friendly people and the great music.
We have not been to St. Lucia but have friends who have and we understand it is one of the more lush and lovely islands. The volcanic islands for the most part don't have the long white beaches that many people are looking for but they have a great deal to offer.
Here is our perception of a few of the islands we have been to: keep in mind some of our visits were a few years ago. We have found that on each island all budgets can be accommodated.
Bahamas- a group of many islands with distinct personalities. Most people are familiar with Nassau because it is the capital, the largest and visited by many on cruise ships. The smaller islands are quiet, quaint and unpopulated. The large island is a tourist mecca where locals tout their wares with smiling faces. Lots of development. Low end and high end hotels and restaurants. Rather flat topography with nice beaches.
Diving: very good-- we are hoping to go to San Salvador in the near future- one of the better islands for diving.
Barbados- one of our favorites (we have visited 4 times) It is a large island with an abundance of sugar cane fields, rolling hills and beautiful beaches. The place we stay is very simple and inexpensive but waterfront. Barbados offers lots of hiking, caving, diving, fine dining and road side roti stands. The water is an amazing blue. Bridgetown is full of trinket and jewelry shops. Many extremely good restaurants on this island. There are several private and high end resorts but plenty for the normal budget also.
Diving: not bad
Bonaire- It is a relatively flat desert island with parts of it looking like Arizona. It is a divers paradise. Many shore dives are a few feet off shore. Boat dives are ten minutes out. You can spend your time diving rather than on the boat. Very good restaurants on this island!
Curacao- is the island right next to Bonaire (one of the ABC islands) A beautiful downtown area and some amazing beaches. This island has a lot to offer and we think it is often over looked. The good thing about Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba is they are south of the hurricane path so they are safe from storms year around. This is one of the reasons their reefs are in such good shape. Very good food and again beautiful beaches.
Diving: very good
Grand Cayman- a banking and scuba diving mecca. A fairly flat island but lovely. World famous for its seven mile beach. Because of the banking laws this brings in a variety of businessmen. If you are looking to hide some money in an off shore account this is the place. Many high rise hotels and condos lining the beach. Some of the areas of the island are very pricey but budget accommodations can be found. There is a town called Hell where you can visit and have your photo to send to friends. Very good food.
Cayman Brac- not much going on this island except some diving. Small and quiet. Don't go to this island if you can't entertain yourself with walks on the beach, laying in the hammock, sitting and the bar sharing dive stories and adding a few more dives to your log. Nice accommodations.
Diving: excellent- Bloody Bay wall is amazing
Dominica- called the Garden Isle. It is beautiful, lush and green. Extremely narrow windy roads curving up through the mountains and hills. Be careful if you rent a car you could end up in a fairly deep ditch. Black sand beaches because it is volcanic. A million things to do if you love the outdoors- gardens, canoeing, some amazing hiking, waterfalls and diving. Not built up much yet so still feels off the beaten path.
Diving: very good
Jamaica- it is a very large island with a variety of topography. It is green and lush with hills and mountains. Beautiful botanical gardens, famous waterfalls, hiking and a water sport paradise. This island offers many all inclusive resorts and high end to low end accommodations. Depending on where you are some of the locals can be assertive in trying to sell their wares but we are good at saying no. Very good food available and you could go to Bob Marley's house if you wanted to take the time.
Turks and Caicos- Is a group of islands each with their own personality.Amazing color of water. We've been to Grand Turk and Salt Caye. We didn't go to Providenciales because it is built up and has casinos.
Grand Turk is stepping back in time. Many people rent golf carts to explore the island as It is small. A few nice beaches and some very good diving. Also known for whale watching in the winter. Salt Caye is tiny- don't go unless you like the quiet.
Diving: very good
St. Lucia is on our short list but I suspect our next couple of islands will be Bequia and Montserrat.