Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) have emerged as promising candidates for a number of bio-applications. Surface modification of CNCs continues to gain significant research interest as it imparts new properties to the surface of the nanocrystals for the design of multifunctional CNCs-based materials. A small chemical surface modification can potentially lead to drastic behavioral changes of cell-material interactions thereby affecting the intended bio-application. In this work, unmodified CNCs were covalently decorated with four different organic moieties such as a diaminobutane fragment, a cyclic oligosaccharide (β-cyclodextrin), a thermoresponsive polymer (poly[N-isopropylacrylamide]), and a cationic aminomethacrylamide-based polymer using different synthetic covalent methods. The effect of surface coatings of CNCs and the respective dose-response of the above organic moieties on the cell viability were evaluated on mammalian cell cultures (J774A.1 and MFC-7), using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and lactate dehydrogenase assays. Overall, the results indicated that cells exposed to surface-coated CNCs for 24 h did not display major changes in cell viability, membrane permeability as well as cell morphology. However, with longer exposure, all these parameters were somewhat affected, which appears not to be correlated with either anionic or cationic surface coatings of CNCs used in this study.